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POPE'S ESSAY ON CRITICISM 



POPE'S 
ESSAY ON CRITICISM 

EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES 



BY 

JOHN CHURTON COLLINS, M.A. 



MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited 

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1896 

All rights reserved 






GLASGOW : PRINTED AT THE UNIVERSITY FRESS 
BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. 



PREFACE. 

The task of editing any portion of Pope's writings 
has been so much lightened by the labours of four 
generations of commentators that there is now very 
little room for original research, or for any important 
additions either in the way of commentary or illustra- 
tion. I have had before me the editions of Warburton, 
Warton, Bowles, Eoscoe, Elwin, and Courthope, the 
notes of Wakefield, Conington's interesting essay, and 
I am indebted to them all, but especially to Mr. 
Elwin's notes and to Mro Courthope's excellent Life of 
Pope. As this edition is designed mainly for the use 
of students, both in England and in the Colonies, 
the notes are very copious, but I have endeavoured 
to make them as succinct and relevant as I could. I 
have, I hope, left no passage or even word, likely to 
present any difficulty, unexplained. It has been neces- 
sary to quote somewhat freely from ancient classical 
authors, but where quotations have been given they 
have always been translated. It seems a great pity 
that instruction in the principles of criticism should 



vi PREFACE. 

be so generally neglected, both in our schools and 
in our colleges, and so little encouraged by those who 
prescribe the subjects of study in our higher government 
examinations. The proper place of the Essay on Criti- 
cism is no doubt beside Horace's Ars Foetica, and it 
is better adapted for classical than for non-classical 
students, but to non- classical students it would be 
perfectly intelligible, and the study of it could not fail 
to be of benefit to them in more ways than one. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

Memoir of Pope, .,..-.. . , ix 

Introduction, , . , xxvi 

An Essay on Criticism, 1 

Notes, ..,...,. o .. 23 



MEMOIR OF POPE. 

Alexander Pope, the Boileau of English Literature, 
and the most illustrious poet of the Critical School, 
was born in Lombard Street, London, on the 21^jof 
May, 1688— a memorable year, for it was the year of 
the Revolution. His father was a linen-draper, but, 
according to Pope, belonged to a gentle family, the 
head of which was the Earl of Downe. This con- 
nection, however, with the family of that nobleman 
appears to have been a bold fiction devised by Pope 
to refute the taunt, so often levelled at him by the 
Dunces and others, that he was of humble and obscure 
descent. It has been conjectured by Joseph Hunter 
that the poet's grandfather was one Alexander Pope, 
Rector of Thruxton, in Hampshire, who died in 1645. 
His mother, who was his father's second wife, was the 
daughter of William Turner, Esq., of York, one of 
whose brothers died in the service of Charles I. To 
all this Pope refers in his Epistle to Dr. Arhuthnot 
or Prologue to the Satires, where, speaking of his 
descent, he says : 

" Of gentle blood (part shed in honour's cause, 
While yet in Britain honour had applause,) 
Each parent sprung." 



X MEMOIR OF POPE. 

To both his parents he was tenderly attached. He 
has drawn his father's character in the Epistle to Br, 
Arhuthnoty and to his mother there is a very touching 
reference in the same poem/ and again in the Essay 
on Man.^ Both his parents were Eoman Catholics, 
and though Pope's religious ideas in his mature 
years probably differed little from those of his friend 
Bolingbroke, he adhered formally to that creed all his 
life. He belonged, therefore, to a proscribed sect : the 
public schools were closed against him, so also were 
the universities, and all the instruction he could get 
he could get only from the Catholic seminaries or 
from private teachers. An aunt taught him his letters; 
writing he taught himself by copying printed books. 
At eight years of age he received some instruction in 
Latin and Greek from one Bannister, a priest. In the 
following year he was sent to a Eoman Catholic 
seminary at Twyford, near Winchester, where, according 
to his own account, he unlearnt whatever he had 
gained from his first tutor. Then one Deane, who 
had been a Fellow of University College, Oxford, 
and who had recently set up a school at Hyde Park 
Corner, took him in hand. But he learnt very little 

1 394-405: 

"Me, let the tender office long engage 
To rock the cradle of reposing age ; 
With lenient arts extend a mother's breath, 
Make languor smile, and smoothe the bed of death, 
Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, 
And keep awhile one parent from the sky." 
^Epistle IV., 109-10: 

** Or why so long (in life if long can be) 
Lent Heav'n a parent to the poor and me." 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xi 

from Deane. After he had left Deane's school another 
priest gave him lessons for a few months; and "this," 
he says, "was all the teaching I ever had, and, God 
knows, it extended a very little way." He was now 
in his thirteenth year, and from that time he educated 
himself. 

Meanwhile his father had retired from business, and 
had taken a house at Binfield, near Wokingham, in 
Berkshire, " a choice," says Mr. Courthope, " no doubt 
determined by the fact that numerous Koman Catholic 
families were settled in or near Windsor Forest." 
Here, little more than a child though he was, Pope's 
serious life commenced. He was already ambitious to 
become a poet. He wrote a tragedy, an epic poem, 
with panegyrics on all the princes in Europe, and 
"thought himself the greatest genius that ever was." 
His idol and model was Dryden, and so anxious was 

"^he to see his master, that he persuaded some friends 
to take him to Will's Coffee House that he might be 
able to say, as oftentimes afterwards he did say, 
" Firgilium vidi^ The boy's studies were serious, but 
desultory. He read Greek, Latin, Italian, and French ; 
he read very widely in English, being particularly 
attracted by Spenser, Waller. Cowley, and the poets 
of the metaphysical and critical schools. Appreciation 
and sympathy led to imitation, and to this period, no 
doubt, belong the "Studies," which appeared after- 
wards in revised forms in his works, that is, the 
translations from Ovid and Statins, the adaptations of 
Chaucer, and with one exception the imitations of the 
chief English poets. His extraordinary precocity is 
illustrated by the Ode to Solitude, written, he tells us, 



xii MEMOIR OF POPE. 

at about twelve years old, which he professes to have 
published in the form in which- it originally appeared. 
While he was thus engaged he made several friends, 
and among them Sir William Trumbull, who had been 
ambassador at Constantinople, a Lord of the Treasury 
and Secretary of State, and who had recently settled 
at Easthampstead Park. At Trumbull's house he 
may have met the eminent comic dramatist, William 
Wycherley, then a man advanced in years, and William 
Walsh, one of the most distinguished critics of that 
time. In any case, they were amoilg the earliest of 
his friends. To Walsh Pope owed a piece of advice 
which may be said to have furnished him with the 
ideal which ever afterwards guided him in his artistic 
life. "He used to encourage me much, and used to 
tell me there was one way left of excelling ; for though 
we had several great poets, we never had any one 
great poet that was correct, and he desired me to make 
that my study and aim." And "correctness," not in 
the sense in which Macaulay and De Quincey have 
affected to understand the term, but in the sense in 
which Walsh and Pope understand it, became his 
study and aim from that moment till the moment 
when death brushed the pen from his hands ; and 
this " correctness " is one of his distinguishing 
characteristics. 

The works which first brought Pope into notice 
were the Pastorals, As his statements can seldom be 
depended upon, it is impossible to say exactly when the 
Pastorals were written ; but it seems clear that one or 
more of them must have been written before he was 
eighteen. They were published in Tonson's Sixth Mis- 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xiii 

cellany, on the 2nd of May, 1709. From this moment 
he became famous. "It is no flattery at all to say," 
rapturously wrote Walsh, "that Virgil had written 
nothing so good at his age.'' The Pastorals represent 
only a small portion of the work which Pope had pro- 
duced, and which was still in manuscript, and sub limd 
between 1700 and 1709. His intense application had 
weakened and impaired his physical constitution, delicate 
ftx)m his birth, and sown the seeds of the various 
maladies which were to make his life, as he afterwards 
pathetically described it, "a long disease." As 'a child 
of ten he was, we are told, plump and healthy, neither 
a dwarf nor deformed ; but as he advanced into his 
teens, he became ricketty and sickly, he ceased to 
grow, his figure got distorted — his back was so weak 
that he had to be laced up in stiff canvas stays to 
prevent collapse; he could neither dress nor undress 
himself without assistance. Tortured with dyspepsia, 
and racked with excruciating headaches, he never, in 
mature life, knew the sensation of health. But his 
astonishing nervous energy, vitality, and mental vigour 
completely triumphed over physical ailments and de- 
pression ; and in the race for fame he was not even 
handicapped, as the result showed, by impediments 
which would have been fatal to most men. 

As early as 1707, perhaps earlier, he had been hard 
at work on the Essay on Criticism, which appeared 
anonymously in May, 1711. If any proof were needed 
of Pope's unwearied diligence and assiduity as a 
student, it would be afforded by this poem, which is 
little more than a cento of what is best in Greek, 
Latin, Italian, French, and English criticism. In the 



xiv MEMOIR OF POPE. 

Essay on Criticism is sounded the first note of the 
war with the Dunces : the attack on Dennis may be 
said to initiate the controversies in which Pope was 
destined to waste so much precious time. The Essay on- 
Criticism was succeeded by the Messiah and Windsor 
Forest, the first of which was published in the Spectator 
for May, 1712, and the second appeared independently 
in the following year. 

But a poem which was destined to be more famous 
than any of these was now in his hands. One of 
the beaus in London society at this time was Lord 
Petre, and eminent among the belles was Miss 
Arabella Fermor. This lady greatly and justly prided 
herself on two beautiful curls. To possess himself of 
one of these curls was the cherished object of the 
said Lord Petre ; and, finding that he was not likely 
to obtain the prize by fair means, he resorted to 
unfair means, and took the liberty surreptitiously to 
cut off the curl with a pair of scissors, while the lady 
was unsuspiciously sipping her coffee. At this she 
was very naturally indignant, and the result was an 
estrangement between the family of the Termors and 
the family of the Petres. This coming to the ears 
of a common friend, who was also a friend of Pope- 
John Caryll — he asked Pope to write some trifle which 
should turn the whole affair into fun, and laugh the 
estranged families into amity. With this object Pope 
composed, in 1711, a little mock heroic poem in two 
cantos, which was published in Lintofs Miscellany, May, 
1712, entitled The Bape of the Lock But, happening to 
fall in with a curious work by the Abbe Villars — Le 
Comte de Gahalis — which gave an account of the 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xv 

mysteries and mythology of the Eosicrucians, he 
saw how admirably that mythology might be adapted 
to the purposes of mock heroic poetry. He determined, 
therefore, against the advice of Addison, to recast and 
expand his poem. This he did, extending it, chiefly 
by the introduction of the supernatural machinery, 
to five cantos; so, in 1714, appeared The Rape of the 
Lock in the form in which we have it now, and English 
literature was enriched by a masterpiece which has 
neither equal nor second among mock heroic poems 
in our own or in any other language. In 1715 appeared 
the Temple of Fame, an adaptation of Chaucer's House 
of Fame, 

But Pope was now engaged on a work which left 
him little leisure for other undertakings. In October, 
1713, he had issued proposals for a translation of 
the Iliad, He was anxious to make money, and 
the composition of original poetry, however much 
it might add to his fame, was not remunerative. 
Lintot's account with him has been preserved and 
shows that for Windsor Forest he had only received 
thirty-two pounds, for the Essay on Criticism fifteen, 
for the first sketch of the Rape of the Loch seven, and 
for the poem in its completed form fifteen. This was 
not the way to a competency and independence, but a 
competency and independence Pope determined to secure. 
He set to work in a manner which did great credit 
to his abilities for business. The translation was to 
appear in six volumes, which were to be published 
at intervals, at a guinea a volume. Shortly after the 
proposals were issued, he had, thanks to the efforts of 
Swift and other friends, secured five hundred and 



xvi MEMOIR OF POPE. 

seventy-five subscribers, among them the King and 
the Prince of Wales, some of whom took several 
copies. This was not all. Bernard Lintot paid twelve 
hundred pounds for the copyright, supplying gratui- 
tously the copies for the subscribers. The fortunate 
poet cleared by' the Iliad upwards of six thousand 
pounds, a small fortune in those days. It cost him 
about five years' labour. The first volume was pub- 
lished in June, 1715 ; the fifth and sixth volumes were 
published together in May, 1720. The translation of 
the Eiad was so successful that a translation of the 
Odyssey followed naturally. But Pope was weary of 
drudgery, and it was not till some three years had passed 
that he betook himself seriously to his new task, and 
then arranged to divide the labour. Of the Odyssey he 
only translated twelve books ; of the other twelve, the 
first, fourth, nineteenth, and twentieth books were 
assigned to Elijah Fenton, a poet with a touch of 
genius ; and the second, sixth, eighth, eleventh, twelfth, 
sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty-third to William 
Broome, a respectable scholar and an excellent versifier. 
The first instalment of the Odyssey appeared in the 
spring of 1725, the last in the summer of 1726. For 
the Odyssey Pope received in all four thousand five 
hundred pounds, out of which he paid Broome five 
hundred and Fenton two hundred-*-not, it must be 
owned, very liberal remuneration for the assistance 
they had given him, as he was subsequently more 
than once reminded. As a translator of Homer, Pope 
laboured under three great disadvantages : he was very 
imperfectly acquainted with Greek ; he not only lived 
in an age, but was himself the typical representative 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xvii 

of an age, which had scarcely anything in common 
with the age 6f the Homeric poems; and, lastly, he 
had scarcely any of the qualities which constitute the 
peculiar and essential excellence of the Prince of the 
Poets of Nature. But, judged as an independent work, 
it is a memorable and brilliant achievement. Its 
general character is best indicated by what Bentley 
and Gibbon said of it: "It is a pretty poem, Mr. 
Pope, but you must not call it Homer," was Bentley 's 
reply, when Pope asked him whether he had received 
"his Homer." "It has," says Gibbon, "every merit 
except that of faithfulness to the original." Coleridge 
speaks of it as "that astonishing product of talent 
and ingenuity." As a mercantile speculation it was 
eminently successful, for by the Iliad and the Odyssey 
taken together, Pope cleared at least nine thousand 
pounds. This sum, judiciously invested and economically 
managed, not only made him independent for life, but 
enabled him to surround himself with every social 
comfort and even luxury at his villa at Twickenham. 

" Thanks to Homer since I live and thrive, 
Indebted to no Prince or Peer alive." 

Imit. of Horace, Epist. ii. ii. 

We must now go back a few years to review Pope's 
life and work while he was engaged in his version of 
Homer. He had been gradually extending his circle 
of acquaintance and friends till it embraced many of 
the leading people of those times, both in the sphere 
of letters and in the sphere of politics and fashion, 
as is very gracefully illustrated by Gay's delightful 
Welcome from Greece, a poem dedicated to him on his 
completion of the version of the Iliad. In 1719 he 

k 



xviii MEMOm OF POPE. 

purchased the long lease of a house at Twickenham, 
with five acres of land, and soon began to amuse 
himself with adorning and developing his little villa 
and estate, and with the construction of the famous 
grotto. In 1717 had appeared his first volume of 
collected poems, including the Elegy on an Unfortunate 
Lady, and one of the finest and certainly the most 
pathetic of his poems, Eloisa to Abelard, inspired ap- 
parently by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Miss 
Martha Blunt, with both of whom he either was, or 
affected to be, in love. In 1725 appeared his un- 
fortunate edition of Shakespeare, which brought him 
into collision with Lewis Theobald, the hero of the 
first editions of the Dunciad. 

And now commenced the war with the Dunces. 
Dennis, Ambrose Phillips, and others had long been at 
enmity with him. The truth seems to have been that 
Pope was anxious to mark the distinction between him- 
self and the *^race that write," the hacks and scribblers 
whom he and his distinguished friends regarded with 
disdain. It was certainly a great step from Grub 
Street and the cocklofts in St. Martin's Lane and the 
neighbourhood of St. PauFs to the " elegant retreat " at 
Twickenham, where 

" All the distant din the world can keep 
Rolls o'er my grotto and but soothes my sleep. 

, There my retreat the best of patriots grace, 
Chiefs out of war, and statesmen out of place, 
There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl 
The feast of reason and the flow of soul." 

Imit, of Horace^ Sat. ii. i. 

And yet, as his less fortunate brethren — for brethren 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xix 

they considered themselves — constantly reminded him, 
he was no better than themselves— an author by 
profession. Pope retorted by wishing them dinners, 
rain-proof garrets, and immunity from bum-bailiffs. 
Thus it came to pass that he soon numbered among 
his assailants almost the whole guild of hack authors. 
The poor wretches fought with such weapons as 
they had. They circulated the vilest stories about 
his private life ; they taunted him with being a Papist, 
ridiculed his deformed iigure, pulled his Shakespeare 
and his Homer to pieces, accused him of plagiarism 
in his poetry, and kept his sensitive spirit constantly on 
the rack. In 1725-6 Swift visited England, and the first 
two volumes of the Miscellanies were printed, though 
not published, in June, 1727, the third, containing the 
Treatise on the Bathos^ being published in March of that 
year. This stimulated the malignant activity of the 
Dunces, and libels and broadsheets directed against 
Pope and his friends rained down on them like hail. 
Pope now gave the finishing touches to his great satire, 
and in May, 1728, the first three books of the Dunciad 
were issued. It was an unequal and ignominious con- 
flict, in which, to employ Gibbon's phrase, victory was 
a sufficient humiliation. The Dunciad is certainly one 
of the most brilliant of compositions, an astonishing 
tour de force^ but it is a lamentable prostitution • of 
genius. 

From these wretched controversies Pope was recalled 
by a friend who had the candour to tell him that he 
was wasting his superb powers on unworthy objects, 
and who implored him to consult the interests of his 
own fame and of posterity. This friend was Boling- 



XX MEMOIK OF POPE. 

broke, who, having obtained a pardon in 1723, bad, 
in 1724, settled at Dawley, which is within an easy 
drive of Twickenham. Bolingbroke was then busy 
with his philosophical writings and speculations, and 
appears to have been anxious to interest Pope in the 
same studies. The two men became very intimate, and 
at Bolingbroke's suggestion Pope embarked on a very 
ambitious undertaking. This was a great didactic 
poem, which was to comprise a complete system of 
ethics, and it was to be in two books : I. Of the Nature 
and State of Man, with respect to the universe ; as an 
individual; with respect to society; with respect to 
happiness ; II. Of the Use of Things, in nine parts : 
on the limits of human knowledge, on the use of learn- 
ing, on the use of wit, on the knowledge and characters 
of men, on the particular characters of women, on the 
principle and use of civil and ecclesiastical polity, on 
the use of education, on the equality of happiness in the 
several conditions of men, on the use of riches — the 
whole to have been preceded by an address to the 
Saviour on the model of the address of Lucretius to 
Epicurus. Of this ambitious scheme only portions were 
completed. These portions are represented by the 
Essay on Man, in four epistles, which appeared between 
1732 and 1734; the four moral essays which . appeared 
between 1731 and 1735 ; and the fourth book of the 
Dunciod, published in 1742. That Pope, in attempting 
a work of this kind, had attempted a work which, if 
not beyond his strength, was at least not adapted to his 
powers, is hardly likely to be disputed by any com- 
petent judge of the portion which he actually finished. 
Regarded as a philosophical poetn, the Essay cm Man 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xxi 

is almost ridiculous ; regarded as a series of fragments, 
and in relation purely to expression, it is among the 
most brilliant of Pope's achievements in poetry. 

In 1732 John Gray died. Pope was much attached to 
him, and felt his loss so acutely that for some time he 
was unable to do any work. When he was thus de- 
pressed, Bolingbroke directed his attention to Horace's 
first Satire of the Second Book, observing how exactly 
it fitted his case. Pope read the satire, and at once 
commenced an imitation of it in English. This was the 
origin of his Imitations of Hm^ace, which employed him 
at intervals between 1732 and 1738. These delightful 
poems, of which Mark Pattison observes that it is no 
paradox to say that, " imitations " though they be, they 
are among the most original of his writings, are seven 
in number. The Horatian satires and epistles para- 
phrased are the second Satire of the First Book, 
published under the title of Sober Advice from 
Horace, and afterwards very properly suppressed, the 
first and second Satires of the Second Book, th^e first 
and sixth Epistles of the First Book, and the two 
Epistles of the Second Book. In January, 1734-5, 
appeared the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, or, as it was after- 
wards called, the Prologue to the Satires, one of the most 
brilliant and certainly the most comprehensively charac- 
teristic of his poems. Not long before the publication 
of this work, he became involved in a feud which 
inspired the severest satire he ever wrote, the character 
of Sporus inserted in the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. His 
former friendship with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 
had turned into virulent hatred, and in the Imitations 
of Horace he had very coarsely libelled her. To revenge 



xxii MEMOIR OF POPE. 

herself, she coalesced with her kinsman Lord Hervey, 
and between them they concocted a satire against Pope, 
entitled Verses Addressed to the Imitator of Horace, in 
which his character, his family, his figure, and his 
writings were shamefully assailed. He replied first 
in prose, in A Letter to a Noble Lord, and subsequently 
inserted, in the Epistle to Arbuthnot, the portrait of 
Hervey, under the title of Sporus, a satire which 
has no parallel in subtle malignity. In 1738 were 
published the two Dialogues, which at first took their 
title from the year, but were afterwards entitled the 
Epilogue to the Satires. In this group of his writings 
should also be included what he calls The Satires of 
Dr. Donne Versified, These are paraphrases of two of 
Donne's Satires, namely the second and fourth, but 
they are not among the most successful of Pope's 
"imitations." 

Meanwhile he had been engaged in those lamentable 
intrigues, which preceded the publication of his Cor- 
respondence in 1737, an episode in his life over which 
his admirers will always desire to hurry. It may be 
doubted whether fraud, mendacity, treachery, and 
meanness ever went further than Pope carried them 
in this miserablie attempt to reconcile dignity with 
vanity. Briefly, his object was two-fold — to get his 
Correspondence published, but at the same time to 
make it appear that the publication had been forced 
on him in self-defence; ^nd, secondly, to manipulate 
the Correspondence in such a manner as should add to 
his literary and social importance. 

Pope was now beginning to pay the penalty which 
advancing years seldom fail to exact from those on 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xxiii 

whom life has conferred its greatest boons, affection 
and friendship. In 1733 he lost his beloved mother. In 
the following year his dear friend Arbuthnot followed. 
Next went Peterborough, of whom he had written : 

"He whose lightning pierc'd th' Iberian lines, 
Now forms my quincunx, and now ranks my vines, 
Or tames the genius of the stubborn plain. 
Almost as quickly as he conquer'd Spain." 

Imit, of Horace, Sat. ii. i. 129-32. 

Swift was lost to him by the increasing infirmities of 
years and of disease. Of all his old friends, Bolingbroke 
alone was left. His last years were embittered with 
an acrimonious feud with Colley Gibber, whom, in 
an unfortunate moment, he substituted for Theobald 
as the hero of the Dunciad, which was recast for that 
purpose. In the spring of 1744 it was plain that his 
health was breaking up. As the year advanced he grew 
rapidly worse. Some interesting particulars have been 
given of his last days. Not long before his death he 
said : " I am so certain of the soul's being immortal 
that I feel it within me, as it were, by intuition." On 
being asked by his friend Hooke, a Papist, whether he 
would not die like his father and mother, and whether 
a priest should be called, he replied : *'I do not think it 
essential, but it will be very right, and I thank you for 
putting me in mind of it." He received the last sacra- 
ments very devoutly, and observed afterwards : '* There 
is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship, 
and, indeed, friendship itself is only a part of virtue." 
He died on the 30th of May, 1744, so peacefully that 
the attendants did not know the exact moment when 
he expired. In accordance with the instructions 



xxiv MEMOIR OF POPE. 

in his will, he was buried in Twickenham Church, near 
his father and mother. 

With all its blemishes there was much which was 
noble and more which was attractive in Pope's character. 
In an age of servility, he was sternly and inflexibly 
independent, in his own words, "unfee'd, unpension'd, 
no man's heir or slave»" Scrupulously true to himself, 
his soul and his conscience were in his work; and, if 
labour be prayer, his life was assuredly one long act of 
devotion. 

** Of his five talents other five he made, 
And heaven that largely gave was largely paid." 

In the phrase of a Greek poet, he drove no petty trade 
with fame, but strove, not for the suffrage of the multi- 
tude and of the hour, but for the immortality of a classic. 
More than once in his poetry and in his correspondence 
we catch unmistakably the accent of magnanimity — we 
catch it in the Fourth Epistle of the Essay on Man, and 
in the Epistle to Oxford in the Tower, one of the noblest 
poems of its kind. Nothing can be more touching and 
beautiful than his affection for his parents and for his 
friends, nothing more exemplary than his conduct as a 
son. His liberality and kindness find testimony in 
numberless grateful tributes from those who knew him 
in domestic life, and from those who sought his 
countenance and help in literature. His worst fault 
was what was indicated by Atterbury, when he de- 
scribed him as mens curva in corpore citrw, he was not 
truthful, he was not candid. Of the malignity and 
spitefulness which are commonly imputed to him it is 
only just to say, that they were never exhibited except 
when provoked. 



MEMOIR OF POPE. xxv 

The best representation of Pope's features is the 
living bust by Eoubilliac ; the best description is that 
given by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who, as a boy, once saw 
him in an auction room : "He was about four feet six 
high, very hump-backed, and deformed. He had a very 
large and very fine eye, and a long handsome nose : his 
mouth had those peculiar marks which are always found 
in the mouths of crooked persons ; and the muscles 
which run across the cheeks were so strongly marked 
as to appear like small cords." The exquisite sensi- 
bility thus indicated is the secret of much which has 
exposed him to censure and misrepresentation. 



INTRODUCTION. 

It is not possible to determine with certainty the year 
in which the Essay on Criticism was composed. On the 
title page of the quarto of 1717 it is stated that it was 
written in 1709, and this statement was repeated in 
every succeeding edition to the final edition in 1743 ; 
it was also corroborated by Pope in one of his con- 
versations with Spence. But he told Eichardson that 
it was written in 1707, and that the printed date, 1709, 
was a mistake, and he said, practically, the same thing 
on another occasion to Spence, observing that he had 
shown the Essay to Walsh the year before Walsh died, 
and Walsh died in March, 1708. The choice, then, 
seems to lie between 1707 and 1709, and the balance 
of probability is in favour of the later date. In any 
case, it was published anonymously in May, 1711, when 
Pope was in his twenty-fourth year. 

The Essay on Criticism belongs to a class of poems 
which had many precedents both in our own and in 
other literatures. The earliest example of them is to 
be found in Horace's Epistola ad Pisones or De Arte 
Poeticd Liber, written probably between 14 and 11 B.C. 
In this poem Horace deals generally with the principles 
of composition, in the widest sense of the term, as 



INTRODUCTION. xxvii 

applied to poetry. After pointing out what is to be 
aimed at and what is to be avoided in matter, structure, 
and diction, he goes on to define and characterize the 
various species of poetry, the style, metre, and treat- 
ment proper for each — for tragedy, for comedy, for the 
epic ; discusses how far poetry should be didactic, how 
far merely amusing ; what blemishes are venial, what 
defects are fatal ; the relation of genius to art and of 
art to genius ; dwells on the distinction between the 
criticism of an interested flatterer and a disinterested 
and candid judge and adviser ; concluding with a picture 
of a vain and incorrigible poetaster. Fine taste, sound 
sense, and the nicest critical acumen, the result of long 
experience and careful study, combine to make this 
work an invaluable manual both for poets and critics. 
But this is not the only work iij which Horace has 
discussed critical subjects : to the Ars Poetica should 
be added the Tenth Satire of the First Book and the 
First Epistle of the Second Book. It w^ould be scarcely 
possible to overestimate the influence which Horace has 
exercised, as the author of these poems, on criticism in 
Europe. He may be regarded not merely as the founder, 
but as the model and inspirer of the dynasty which 
has its last eminent representative in Byron. 

At the period of the Renaissance Horace found his 
first successful disciple. In 1527 appeared the Poetica 
of Marco Girolamo Yida, afterwards Bishop of Alba. 
This is, like the Ars Poetica, in Latin hexameters, and 
was dedicated to the Dauphin, the eldest son of Francis I. 
The style is modelled not on that of Horace but on that 
of Virgil, and is not, as in the Ars Poetica, easily 
colloquial, but has the ^-tateliness and pomp of Epic 



xxviii ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

diction. It is more elaborate and methodical than 
Horace's poem, and is in three books. The first, which 
draws freely on the Institutes of Quintilian and Plutarch's 
Treatise on the Training of Children, describes generally 
the early education of a poet, and concludes with a 
declamatory peroration on the dignity and sanctity of 
poets. The second book describes in detail the char- 
acteristics of an ideal epic poem, and is indeed little 
more than a careful, thoughtful, and tasteful critical 
analysis of Yirgil's Aeneid. The subjects treated in the 
third book are indicated in the opening lines : 

"Nunc autem linguae studium moremque loquendi, 
Quern vates, Musaeque probent, atque auctor Apollo, 
Expediam." 

'What style, what language, suits the poet's lays, 
To claim Apollo's and the Muses' praise 
I now unfold.' 

It is indeed an elaborate treatise on style and diction, 
borrowing much from Cicero, Horace, Quintilian, and 
Longinus. The precepts laid down are just and sound, 
and often very happily expressed and illustrated. That 
Pope was a careful student of Vida's poems, which later 
in life he included in his Seleda Poemata Italorum, is 
abundantly evident not only in the Essay on Criticism 
but in the Rape of the Lock. 

The next important example of this class of poem 
/ ^ is Boileau's L Art jpoStique, published in 1673. This was 
confessedly modelled on Horace's' Ars Poetica, and 
borrowed from Horace its essential and fundamental 
tenets and canons, the chief of which were the immense 
importance of form and expression and the substitution 
of reason and good sense for " enthusiasm" and "rapture." 



INTRODUCTION . xxix 

As Horace had said, "Scribendi recte sapere est et 
principium et fons," so Boileau repeats {VArt, i. 37-38) • 

" Aimez done la Raison ; que tou jours vos ecrits 
Empruntent d'elle seule et leiir lustre et leur prix." 

"Tout doit tendre au bon sens." 

Boileau's poem is, however, much more elaborate and 
systematic than Horace's. It is divided into four cantos. 
The first gives general precepts illustrated with critical 
remarks on different French poets, from Villon to Mal- 
herbe. The second treats of the pastoral, the elegy, 
the sonnet, the various kinds of lyric poetry, and of 
satire. The third deals with dramatic poetry and with 
the epic. The fourth returns again to general precepts, 
exhorting contemporary poets to respect the dignity of 
their art, and congratulating them on the propitious 
times in which it was their lot to live. Few works have 
had so much influence on criticism as this poem of Boileau. 
Its popularity was enormous. '* He was," says Demogeot, 
" the teacher of his century ; and in his century itself 
he taught the writers less than the public." Nor is 
this popularity at all surprising : he gave a voice to 
the popular taste; his style is admirable — terse, grace- 
ful, brilliant, the perfection of precision, finish, and 
point. He condensed and reproduced all that was best 
in his master Horace, his fine taste, his sound sense. 
He has had his reward. *'If I may be permitted," 
.says the most distinguished of modern French critics, 
St. Beuve, " to speak for myself, Boileau is one of the 
men with whom I have been most occupied since I 
have been engaged in criticism, and with whom I have 
most constantly lived in thought." Boileau's work 



XXX ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

became almost as popular in England as it was in 
France, for in 1683 a paraphrase adapting its illustra- 
tions and allusions to our own literature appeared, the 
work of Sir William Soame, revised in all probability 
by Dryden. How carefully Pope had studied it is plain 
from the numberless reminiscences of it to be found 
in his Essay. The popularity of Boileau and Horace 
led to several poems, published between 1679 and the 
end of the century, dealing with the principles of 
criticism. In 1679 Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, cir- 
culated in manuscript his Essay m Satire, in which he 
was probably assisted by Dryden. This was followed 
in 1682 by his Essay on Poetry, in which the influence 
of Boileau is very evident. The year before (1681) 
appeared Eoscommon's Essay on Translated Verse, con-| 
taining many judicious and sensible remarks, but 
ludicrously overrated both by Dryden and by Addison. 
The high opinion entertained of this work by con- 
temporaries is illustrated by G-ranville's verses : 

"First Mulgrave rose, Roscommon next, like light 
To clear our darkness and to guide our sight ; 
With steady judgment and in lofty sounds 
They gave us patterns, and they set us bounds; 
The Stagirite and Horace laid aside, 
Informed by them we seek no other guide. "^ 

About this time also Eoscommon translated into blank 
verse Horace's Ars Poetica. But these were not the 
last of these Essays. In or about 1700 George Gran- 
ville, afterwards Lord Lansdowne, published his Essay 
upon Unnatural Flights in Poetry, written to show that 
moderation and good sense should be the chief study 

^ Essay upon Unnatural Flights in Poetry, 



INTRODUCTION. xxxi 

of the true poet. Lastly came the Essay on Criticism, 
in which this species of poetry may be said to culminate. 
Its significance in relation to what preceded it is 
indicated by Lady M. Wortley Montagu's remark " that 
it was all stolen." This is practically the truth. It 
is the final and concentrated embodigient of what had 
found expression in all these poets pn H orace, in Vida, 
in Boileau, in SheflSield, in Eoscomnfon, and in Granville. 
But it was more than this : it was the result of an 
intelligent, if somewhat desultory study, of the sources 
on which some of these poets had themselves drawn, 
the critical writings, that is to say of Aristotle, Cicero, 
Dionysius, Quintilian, Longinus, and the works of the 
English and French critics of the seventeenth century, 
Bossu, Eapin, Bouhours, and our own Dryden. 

From an historical point of view the Essay is of great 
importance, iq]^ it may be said to sum up the canons,,^ 
terjets^and ideals of that scbool of poetry known in our 
lit^.r ature as the ^^ critical" or "classical" schoolTTEe 
§ebo4iLQf.whidi Waller, Denham,^J)avenant,_ and Cowley • 
were the forerunners, Dryden the formulator and popu- 
iadzer^and Pope the most finished representativa And 
it did more. It reduced chaos to order: it crystaHizfii^ 
wja^ was fluid ; it defined what was unfixed.^ I ^ was 
j the iirsr"classical contyibution to Eng lish criticism^ the 
fi^rstj bich attra gtfid ^ uni versal attention and— became, 
authoritatiye. What the Book of Sentences was to the 
scholastic philosophy of the thirteenth century, this Essay 
became to the critics of the eighteenth — th^ii^nanu al and 
their armoury. It is this which accounts for the extrava- 
• gant eulogies of Addison and Johnson : " The Essay 
m Criticism is," says Johnson., " one of Pope's greatest 



xxxii ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

works, and, if he had written nothing else, it would 
have placed him among the first critics and first poets, 
as it exhibits every mode of excellence that can embel- 
lish or dignify didactic composition— selection of matter, 
novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendour 
of illustration, and propriety of digression/y Mr. Court- 
hope acutely remarks that "the critical sense of the 
Essay is most warmly appreciated by those who are 
nearest to it in point of time, and is coldly spoken of 
in proportion as the practical value of its maxims be- 
comes less apparent." Thus De Quincey pronounces it* 
to be " the feeblest and least interesting of Pope's writ- 
ings, being substantially a mere versification, like a 
metrical multiplication table, of commonplaces the most 
mouldy with which criticism has baited its rat-traps.'' ^ 
This is substantially the judgment also of Mr. Leslie 
Stephen, though he admits that " it shows singular skill 
in putting old truths," and hits off *' many phrases of 
marked felicity." 

It may be conceded at once that the critical lamps of 
the eighteenth century are not, and cannot possibly be, 
the critical lamps of the nineteenth century ; and that 
to go to Pope's Essay for final standards and touchstones 
would be, in Sancho Panza's phrase, to seek for pears 
on an elm tree. But it is right that a work should be 
judged not in relation to what it is not, but in relation 
to what it is ; and there is much, and very much, in the 
Essay which is of perennial interest and value. Eegard- 
ing the poem comprehensively, we are confronted with 
two very opposite conceptions of its scope and purport. 

^Article on Schlosser's Literary History of the Eighteenth 
Century. 



INTRODUCTION. xxxiii 

Warburton contends that it is a systematic treatise, and 
" that no incomplete one, both of the art of Criticism and 
Poetry"; that it is "a regular piece." Addison, on the 
other hand, observes that "the observations follow one 
another, like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without the 
methodical regularity which would have been requisite 
in a prose writer"; and De Quincey, going much 
further than Addison, boldly describes it as **a col- 
lection of independent maxims, tied together into a 
fasciculus by the printer, but having no natural order or 
logical dependency." ^ The truth obviously lies between 
these two extremes of opinion. It was not Pope's habit 
to be logical and coherent. He wrote fragmentarily, 
finishing couplet by couplet, piece by piece, dove-tailing 
and connecting each with each, as best he could. His 
friend Swift very amusingly describes his process of 
composition : 

"Now backs of letters, tho' design'd 

For those who more will need 'em, 
Are fiird with hints and underlin'd. 

Himself can scarcely read 'em. 
Each atom to some other struck 

All turns and motions tries ; 
Till, in a lump together stuck, 

Behold a poem rise." 

He produced the Essay on Criticism exactly as he pro- 
duced the Essay on Man. Both poems may be compared 
to mosaic work or patch-work. In the Essay on Man he 
ransacked the writers of all schools, sects, and creeds for 
his material and philosophy, and consequently produced 
a poem which is full of contradictions and inconsist- 

^ "Essay on Pope," Worhs, Vol. xv., p. 142. 



xxxiv ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

encies, but which abounds with striking and brilliant 
passages. His process was the same in composing the 
Essay on Criticism^ but, as the principles of criticism are 
more fixed than the tenets of conflicting philosophic 
systems, he has not involved himself in tfie same diffi- 
culty. It is probable that, in choosing the term "Essay," 
— ^which in Pope's time retained the sense in which it 
had been employed by Montaigne and Bacon — he 
intended to indicate the nature of the poem, namely, 
that it was a contribution, more or less tentative and 
desultory, to the subject treated in it, not a methodical 
treatise like Boileau's poem. But method it has, if we 
do not press details too closely, and mor^ method un- 
. ~^j?Ldoubtedly than Horace's Art of Poetry, vlt is in three 
I parts. The first extends from line 1 to 201, and gives 
rules for the study of the Art of Criticism. It begins by 
dwelling on the imDottanceofcriticism, and the mischief 
occasioned by its abuse ; points out and accounts for the 
prevalence of bad criticism; and then goes on to show 
that natural genius, careful discipline, and judiciously 
directed study must combine to produce a sound and 
efficient critic ; and after commenting on what facilitates 
and on what impedes in the attainment and use of these 
requisites, it concludes with an apostrophe to the ancient/ 
poets. The second part, from lines 201 to 560^ explains 
the causes of wrong judg^ient in criticism, mxich. ar6 
admirably analyzed and arajten in number :* pride, im- 
perfect learning, j iidging by parts and not b y theArhole« 
feeing too ha rd ,to.plg.ase or too apt to admire, p%tiality 
to wards the anc ients or mpdgrns fl:>rejud ice, ^tn^ularity, 
inconst^y, vaktj spin t, ewy. It then goes on to 
inculcate the ready recognition o^ merit; for fame, like 



{Y 



INTRODUCTION. xxxv 

life, is brief, and genius has many enemies ; but learning 
at least should be its friend ; and the part concludes with 
some remarks on what a critic may spare or condone, 
and where he should be unflinchingly severe. The third 
part, from line 560-744, treats of the Ethics of Criticism: 
a critic should, in addition to possessing taste, judgment, 
and learning, be distinguished by candour, modesty, 
good breeding, and tact. Then are depicted the charac- 
ters of an incorrigible poet and of an impertinent critic ; 
and next, by way of contrast, the ideal critic. The 
history of criticism, as illustrated by its most eminent 
representatives from Aristotle to Walsh, is then briefly 
reviewed. It will be clear from this that De Quincey's 
description of the poem is unfair and even absurd; that 
it has both method and system. If, however, we 
examine it closely, we shall find that it is full of re- 
petitions, that the statements are not unfrequently 
inconsistent, and the couplets sometimes inconsequen- 
tial : a striking instance of this is to be found in lines 
/^33-4J which have absolutely no connection with the 
^.'^ontextj and in 634-5, which are inconsistent with 
what is expressed in the preceding couplet. The poem 
has all the marks of being the work of a young writer. 
^The composition i^ sometimes stiff, cumbrous, and un- 
grammatical, as : -. 

"No monstrous height or breadth or length appear^'*' 251 "t^ 



or 
or 



" Neglect the rules each verbal critic laySi'^ 261 '6^' 

** In proud dulness joins with quality." 415 

" While their weak heads, like towns unfortified, 
*Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. " 

434-5 



xxxvi ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

Nothing could be worse than the following couplet: 

"Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations, 
By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations." 663-4 

The metre is frequently very faulty, and imperfect 
rhymes abound; thus we find "wit" rhyming with 
"delight" and with "light/' "stilP' with "suitable," 
"satires" with "dedicators," "extreme" with "phlegm," 
"character" with "steer." ^The rhymes, too, are singu- 
larly monotonous : in a poem of 744 lines there are no 
less than ten couplets rhyming to " sense " and twelve 
rhyming to "wit."* 

"^^ A more serious objection to the poem lies in its 
i mpHed UUdere^li ma te^ot such pmij^ a s Chauce r^ 
Speiiser, 3h[itfespeare, and ^jito n, and it s expressed 
6verestiniaie""i5r"su cli mediocri ties as Sheffie ld, HRio S' 
d(nmnT5Tr," and "IV alsET" For this"^eeiQsTo~ui3icate that 
wIiirPopS"pfonounced Nature to be the supreme pattern 
and model, and contended that Nature and Homer were 
the same, he was indulging in mere cant^ or was fur- 
nished with a criterion which he was unable to apply. 
His extraordinary estimate of Yida points to the same 
conclusion. Of one thing there can be no doubt, that 
with a theory of criticism which must have demonstrated 
that Dryden and his school were scarcely entitled to 
the name of poets, he exalted them above all the poets 
in England. The truth is, that the JSssap on Criticism^ 
like the Essay on Man, was a compilation from different 
theories of criticism, deriving some of its tenets from 
a work like the Ars Poetica, and some from a work like 
the Treatise on the Sublime, The application of Horace's 
tests would undoubtedly exalt Dryden above Shakes- 



INTRODUCTION. xxxvii 

peare, as the application of those of Lohginus would 
not merely demonstrate the supremacy of Shakespeare, 
but would almost exclude Dryden from the ranks 'of 
poets. Pope's tastes and sympathies were with Horace; 
when he spoke the language of Longinus he spoke it 
by rote. 

^ To originality the Ussay on Criticism has no pretension. 
It is little more than a cento. It may be dou bted 
whether it contains an observation, an idea, an image 
wETchis not borrowed: Tte^quiredTnowTedge dis- " 
playe3~Tir it is, considering the age of the writer, 
wonderful. ^ 

It is, however, no paradox to say that its lack of 
originality is one of its chief merits. It stands in the 
same relation to criticism as Bacon's Essays stand to ethics 
and the conduct of life. It is an epitome of tried and 
aisefulimths, an anthology of wit and wisdom admirably 
chosen, admirably presented. It is more than this : it 
traces feature by feature the portrait of an ideal critic, 
and the critic who modelled himself on Pope's pattern 
would, so far as conduct, temper, and general character 
are concerned, leave little to be desired. St. Beuve has 
said that every professional critic ought to frame and 
hang up in his study these lines : 

" But where's the man, who counsel can bestow, 

Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know ? 

Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite ; 

Not duly prepossess'd, nor blindly right ; 

Though learn'd, well-bred ; and tho' well-bred, sincere, 
l" Modestly bold, and humanly severe : 
', Who to a friend his faults can freely show, 

And gladly praise the merit of a foe ? 



xxxviii ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd ; 

A knowledge both of books and human kind : 

Gen' rous converse ; a soul exempt from pride; 

And love to praise, with reason on his side?" 630-42 

Take again : 

" A perfect Judge will read each work of Wit 
With the same spirit that its author writ : 
Survey the Whole, nor seek slight faults to find 
Where nature moves and rapture warms the mind ; 
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, 
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with Wit." 

233-38. 

which should be compared with lines 253-67 and lines 
384-7. How admirably, too, does he point out in lines 
1144, and in lines 68-74 and 124-35, the relation of 
natural abilities to discipline, and indicate the most 
profitable course of study. So, too, in dealing with 
the ethics of criticism, how excellent are his precepts : 

* Good-nature and good-sense must ever join; 
To err is human, to forgive, divine." 524-5 

**'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join; 
In all you speak, let truth and candour shine : 
That not alone what to your sense is due 
All may allow; but seek your friendship too." 562-5 

"Men must be taught as if you taught them not, 
.And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. 
Without good breeding, truth is disapproved; 
That only makes superior sense beloved." 574-7 

" 'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, 
And charitably let the dull be vain: 
Your silence there is better than your spite, 
^For who can rail so long as fools can write." 596-9 



INTRODUCTION. xxxix 

No one has ever questioned that in terse and felicitous 
expression Pope has no superior, and very few rivals, 
among English classics. In his famous definition — 
true wit 

" Is Nature to advantage dress'd, 
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed ; 
Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, 
That gives us back the image of our mind." 

— and in this he was a consummate master. Every 
section of this Essay abounds in aphorisms expressed 
with final felicity :^ take a very few out of very 
many : ^^ -""^ 

r 'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none 

^^ Go just alike, yet each believes his own." 9-10 

" Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past, 
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last." 

36-7 

*' Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend. 
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend." 

159-60 

«< Words are like leaves, and where they most abound ; 
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found." 309-10 

"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, 
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance." 

362-63 

" Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue ; 
But like a shadow proves the substance true." 466-7 

^ ^'*To err is human, to forgive, divine." 525 

r^ "Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread." 625 

"Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream." 180 



xl 



ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 



Nothing could be more brilliant, eloquent, and felici- 
tous than the simile in which progress in learning is 
compared to the ascent of the Alps (225-32), or the 
passage treating of the rhythm and cadence in verse 
(337-73), or the apostrophe to the Renaissance (697- 
708). 

Weighing the merits with the defects and blemishes 
of the Essay, an impartial judgment will probably 
strike the bailee between the estimate formed of it 
by D r. Johnson j itnd Hazlitt and the estimate formed 
by De Quincey and Mr. Leslie Stephen. It is not, as 
the former imply, an original work; it is not a com- 
plete treatise, but it is assuredly something more than 
" a mere versification, like a metrical multiplication table 
of commonplaces," " hitting off many phrases of marked 
felicity." Its true position is indicated by St. Beuve. 
"To my thinking," he says, "it is quite as sood as 
Horace's Ars Poetica or Boileau's Art PoMque.'^ [ "How 
many judicious and subtle remarks," he continues, "con- 
taining eternal truths do I gather as I read it ! With 
what terseness, conciseness, elegance are they expressed 
and once for all!" With this verdict, and from such 
a judge, the admirers of Pope — and they can never 
become extinct — may well be satisfied, J 



AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 



Introduction. . That His as great a fault to judge ill as to write ill, 
and a more dangerous one to the public^ v. 1. -"--"— 

That a true Taste is as rare to he found, as a true Genius, v. 9 to 18. 

That most men are horn with some Taste, hut spoiled by false Educa- 
tion, V. 19 to 25. 

The multitude of Critics, and causes of them, v. 26 to 45. 
- That we are to study our own Taste, and know the Limits of it, v. 
46 to 67. 

Nature the best guide of Judgment, v. 68 to 87. 
'^^Impro^d by Art and Rules, which are but methodis'd Nature, 88, 

Rules derived from the Practice of the Ancient Poets, v. id. to 110. 

That therefore the Ancients are necessary to be studyd, by a Critic, 
particularly Homer and Virgil, v. 120 to 138. 

Of Licenses, and the use of them by the Ancients, v. 140 to 180. 

Reverence due to the Ancients, and praise of them, v. 181, etc. 

'Tis 'hard to say, if greater want of skill 1 

Appear in writing or in judging ill ; 

But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence 

To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. 

Some few in that, but numbers err in this, 

Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss ; 

A fool might once himself alone expose. 

Now one ir; verse makes many more in prose. 
y^'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none 
UGo just alike, yet each believes his own. 

In Poets as true genius is but rare,^ 

True Taste as seldom is the Critic's share ; c^i^^^JL^-*^ t^f^^ii^itL. 

""Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light, ^ 

"^hese bom to judge, as well as those to write. 




2 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. i. 

I Let such teach others who themselves excel, | * 
And censure freely who have written well. / 
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true 
But are not critics to their judgment too ? 

Yet if we look more closely, we shall find 
Most have the seeds of judgment) ^^ their mind : 20 

Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light ; 
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right. 

ut as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd, ^ 

Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd, r 

^o by false learning is good sense defac'd : ^ 

Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, 
And some made coxcombs- Nature meant but fools. 
In search of wit these lose their common sense, 
And then turn Critics in their own defence : 
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30 

gQjjjwith a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite. 
/All fools have still an itching to deride, 
\Andfain would be upon the laughing side, 
f Msevius scribble in Apollo's spite, ' /Y^» 

!'here are who judge still worse than he can writeJ 
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets pastj 
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last. J// 




ist. J^ 



I 

Som*)^ neither can for Wits nor Critics passy 
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass. 
Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle, 40 

As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile ; . 
Unfinish'd things, one knpws not what to call, 
Their generation's so equivocal : 
To teU 'em, would a hundred tongues require, j 
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire, i^ 
"^ But you who seek to give and merit fame, ^a^^^ 
And justly bear a Critic's noble nam^ ^/?ta/^ 

, Be sure' yourself and your own reach to know, 
How far your genius, taste, and learning go ; 
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet^^ 



jC 





AN ESSAY ON CKITICISM. 3 

And mark that point where sense and duhiess meet./ 
'" Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, . 
And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending- wit. 
As on the land while here the ocean gains, 
In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains ;• 
Thus in the soul while memory prevails, 
The solid pow'r of understanding fails ; 
Where beams of warm imagination play, 

e memory's soft figures melt away. 
One science only will one genius fit ; 60 

o vast is art^ so narrow human wit : 
Not only bounded to peculiar arts, 
But oft in those confin'd to single parts. 
Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before, 
By vain ambition still to make them more ; 
Jlach might his sev'ral province well command. 
Would all but stoop to what they understand. 

First follow Nature, and your judgment frame ■ 
By her just standard, which is still the same : 
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 70 . 

One clear, unchang'd, and universal light. 
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, 
At once the source, and end, and test of Art. 
Art from that fund each just supply provides, , 
Works without show, and without pomp presides : 
In s<^me fair body thus th' informing soiil 
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, 
Each motion gttides, and ey'ry nerve sustains ; 
Itself unseen, but in th' 'effects, remains. ^ 
Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse, X 80 
Want as much more, to turn it to its use ; > 

IFor wit and judgment often are at strife, \ 

fTho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife. \ 

'•Tis more to guide, than spur the Muse's steed ; ^ / 
Bestrain his fury, than provoke his speed ; v^ 
The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse, ^ 



4 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

Shows most true mettle wten you check his course. ' 

'. Those Rules of old discovered, not devis'(^ 

'Are Nature still, but Nature methodiz'd ; 

Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd 90 

By the same laws which first herself ordain'd. 

Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, ' 
When to. repress, and when indulge our flights : 
High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd. 
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod ; 
Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize, 
And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rise. 
Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n, 
She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heaven. 
The generous Critic fanned the Poet's fire, 100 

And taught the world with reason to admire. 
Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid proVd, 
To dress her charms, .and make her more beloVd : 
But following wits from that intention stray'd. 
Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid ; 
Against the Poets their own arms they turn'd, 
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd. 
So modern 'Pothecaries, taught the art 
By Doctor's bills to play the Doctor's part, 
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules, 110 

Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. 
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, 
* Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they. 
Some drily plain, without invention's aid. 
Write dull receipts how poems may be made. 
These leave the sense, their learning t^ display, 
And those explain the meaning quite away. 

You then whose judgment the right course would steer, 
Know well each Ancient's proper character ; \ 
His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page ; \ 120 

Religion, Country, genius of his Age : 
Without all these at once before your eyes, 



:. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 5 

Cavil you may, but never criticize. 

Be Homer's works your study and delight, 

Eead them by day, and meditate by night ; 

Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring. 

And trace the Muses upward to their spring. 

Still with itself compared, his text peruse ; 

And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse. 

When first young Maro in his boundless mind 130 

A work t' outlast immortal Kome design' d, 
Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law, 
And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw : 

eiit when t' examine ev'ry part he came, 
ature and Homer were, he found, the same. 
Coiwiuc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold design ; ") 
Aufcules as strict his labour'd work confine, |- 
As it the Stagirite o'erlook'd each line. ' J 

Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem ; 
To copy Nature is to copy them. 140 

Some beauties yet no Precepts i3an declare, 
For there's a happiness as well sis care. ,. ' 

• Music resembles Poetry, Un each — ""^ \ 

• Are nameless graces which no methods teach, V 

• And which a master-hand alone can r^ach. '^ J 
If, where the rules not far enough extend, ' 
(Since rules were made but to promote their end) 
Some lucky Licence answer to the full 

Th' intent proposed, that Licence is a rule. 
• Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take, 150 

May boldly deviate from thecommon track ; 
Prom vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, 
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, 
Which without passing thro' the judgment, gains 
The heart, and all its end at once attains. - 
In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, 1 
Which out of nature's common order rise, j- 

The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. J 



6 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. i. 

Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, 
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend, 160 

1 But tho' the Ancients thus their rules invade. \ 

(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made) \ 
Moderns, beware ! or if you must offend ) 

Against the precept, ne'er transgress its End ; 
Let it be seldom, and compelled by need ; • 
And have, at least, their precedent to plead. 
The Critic else proceeds without remorse, 
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force. - . 

I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts 
Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults. 170 

Some figures monstrous and mis-shap'd appear, 
Consider'd* singly, or beheld too near, 
Which^ but proportion'd to their light, or place, 
Due distance reconciles to form and grace. 
A prudent chief not always must display 
His pow'rs in equal ranks, and fair array. 
But with th' occasion and the place comply, 
Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly. 
Those oft are stratagems which error seem. 
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream. 180 

Still green with hays each ancient Altar stands, 
Above the reach of sacrilegious hands ; 
Secure from Flames, from Envy's fiercer rage, 
Destructive War, and all-involving Age. 
See, from each clime the learn'd their incense bring ! 
Hear, in all tongues consenting Pseans ring ! 
In praise so just let ev'ry voice be join'd. 
And fill the gen'ral chorus of mankind. 
Hail, Bar4| triumphant ! born in happier days ; 
Immortal heirs of universal praise ! 190 

' Whose honours with increase of ages grow, * 
• As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow*; 
Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, 
And worlds applaud that must not yet be found ! 



A^ ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 7 

Oh may some spark of your celestial fire, 

The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, 

(That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights ; 

Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes) 

To teach vain Wits a science little known, 

T' admire superior sense, and doubt their own ! 200 



^ 



€oo<^ 



11. 



Causes hindering a true Judgment. 1. Pride, v. 208. 2. Imperfect 
Learning, v. 215. 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole, v. 233 to 
288. Critics in "Wit, Language, Versification, only, v. 288, 305, 339, 
etc. 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, v. 384. 5. Par- 
tiality — too much Love to a Sect, — to the Ancients or Moderns, v, 394. 
6. Prejudice or Prevention, v. 408. 7. Singularity, v. 424. 8. Incon- 
stancy, V. 430. 9. Party Spirit, v. 452, etc. 10. Envy, v. 466. 
Against Envy, and in praise of Oood-nature, v. 508, etc. When 
Severity is chiejly to be used by Critics, v. 526, etc. 

Of all the Causes which conspire to blind 
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, 
What the weak head with strongest bias rules, 
Is Pride^ the never-failing voice of fools. '— - 
Whatever nature has in worth denied. 
She gives in large recruits of needful pride ; 
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find 
What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind : 
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,^ 
And fills up all the mighty Void of sense. 210 

If once right reason drives that cloud away. 
Truth breaks upon us with resistless ^iay. 
Trust not yourself ; but your defects to know, 
I^akejuse of ev'ry f-riend — and ev'ry foe. ^ 
■^ ^\^^Aittle lemmnglk'2i. dang'rous thing ; ) \ "'"y,.^, 
C l)rinkaeepJ"oin^te not the Pierian spring t- / 
^ There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, 
And drinking largely sobers us again. 
Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts, 






AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

^In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts, 22f 

While from the bounded level of our mind 
I Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind ; 
' But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise 
wNew distant scenes of endless' science rise ! 
•^o pleased at first the tow'ring Alps we try f 

Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky, 

Th' eternal snows appear already past, 

And the first clouds and mountains seem the last ; . . 

But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey 

The growing labours of the lengthen'd way, 230 

Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes, 

Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise ! 
^ / A perfect Judge will rea.d each* work of Wit / "^ 

1 With the same spirit that its author writ \ -^ • 
n , Survey the Whole, nor seek slight faults to find 

Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind ; 

Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight. 

The gen'rou^ pleasure to be charm'd with Wit. 

But in such lays as neither ebb, nor flow, 

Correctly cold, and regularly low, 240 

That shunning faults one quiet tenour keep ; 

We cannot blame indeed — but we may sleep. 
^ «*^ In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts^ 

Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts ; 

'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, 
y .But the joint force and full result of alL 

Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, 

(The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome !) 

No single parts unequally surprise, 

All comes united t6 th' admiring eyes ; 250 

No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear ; 

The Whole at once is bold, and regulsEr. 
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, 

Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. 
.In every work regard the writer's End, *. 



' sleep. 

rts^ 

J 



n. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 

Since none can compass more than they intend ;| 

And if the means be just, the conduct true, 

Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due ; 

As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, 
• T' avoid great errors, must the less commit ; 260 

* Neglect the rules each verbal Critic lays, 
^ For not to know some trifles, is a praise. 

Most Critics, fond of some subservient art, 

Still make the Whole depend upon a Part : 

They talk of principles, but notions prize. 

And all to one lov'd Folly sacrifice. 

Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say, 

A certain bard encountering on the way, 

Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage, 

As e'er could Dennis of the Grecian stage ; 270 

Concluding all were desp'rate sots and fools, 

Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. 

Our Author, happy in a judge so nice, 

Produc'd his Play, and begg'd the Knight's advice ; 

Made him observe the subject, and the plot, 

The manners, passions, unities ; what not ? 

All which, exact to rule, were brought about, 

Were but a Combat in the lists left out. 

"What I leave the Combat out 1 " exclaims the Knight ; 

Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. 280 

" Not so by Heav'n " (he answers in a rage), 

" Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the stage." 

So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain. 

" Then build a new, or act it in a plain." 
Thus Critics, of less judgment than caprice, 

Curious not knowing, not exact but nice. 

Form short Ideas ; and offend in arts 

/(As most in manners) by a love to parts. 
Some to Conceit alone their taste confine, 
And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line ; 290 

Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit ; 



10 AN E88AY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

One glaring Chaos and wUd heap of ^Yit. 
Poets like painters, thus, nnskill'd to trace 
The naked nature and the living grace, 
With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part, 
And hide with ornaments their want of art. 

■ True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd, 

What oft w^as thought, but ne'er so well express'd ; 

Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, 

That gives us back the image of our mind. 300 

As shades more sweetly recommend the light] 

So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. 

For works may have more wit than does 'em good, 

■ As bodies perish thro' excess of blood. 

Others for Language all their care express, 
And value books, as women men, for Dress : 
Their praise is still,— the Style is excellent : 
he Sense, they humbly take upon content. 
T^ are like leaves ; and where they most abound, 
Lch fruffc of sense beneath is rarely found, 310 

Eloquence, like the prismatic glass, 
' ''''itsi^^udy colours spreads on ev'ry place ; 
Tb.B face of Nature we no more survey, 
All glares alike, without distinction gay ; 

t'true expression, like th' unchanging Sun, 
<^lears and improves whate'er it shines upon, 
It gilds all objects but it alters none. 
Expression is the dress of thought, and still 
Appears more decent, as more suitable ; 
A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320 

Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd : 
For diff'rent styles with diif 'rent subjects sort. 
As several garbs with country, town, and court. 
Some by old words to fame have made pretence. 
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense ; I 

Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style, i 

Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile. J 



33^1. -ll> 



II. ^IL^SSAY ON CRITICISM. U 

Unlucky, as Fungoso in the play, 

These sparks with awkward vanity display 

What the fine gentleman wore yesterday ; J 330 

And but so mimic ancient wits at best, 

As apes our grandsires, in their doublets drest. 

In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold ; 

Alike fantastic, if too new, or old : 
VJ Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, 
(Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. ) 

But most by Numbers judge a Po^t^s song ; > 

And smooth or rough, with them is right or wrong : 

In the bright Muse though thousand charms conspire. 

Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire ; 340 

Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ^ea^-, 

Not mend their Ininds ; as some to Cliurch repair, 

Not for the doctrine, but the musie-there. 

These equal syllables alone require, 

Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire ; 

While expletives their feeble aid do join ; 

And ten low words oft creep in one dull line : 

While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes, 

With sure returns of still expected rhymes ; 

Where-e'er you find " the cooling western breeze," 350 

In the next line, it " whispers through the trees " : 

If crystal streams " with pleasing murmurs creep," 

The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with " sleep " : 

Then, at the last and only couplet fraught 

With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, 

• A needless Alexandrine ends the song \ 

' That, like a wdund^d snake, drags its slow length along. ' L ^ 
Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know ^^ v^ 
What's roundly smooth or languishingly slow ; 
And praise the easy vigour of a line, 360 

"Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join. 
True ease in writing comes from artTnot chance, 
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. 



12 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM, il 

'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, 

The sound must seem an Echo to the sense : \ 

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blow^ 

And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows ; 

But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, 

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar : 

•When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, 370 

The line too labours, and the words move slow ; 

• Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, 

• Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main. 
Hear how Timotheus^ varied lays surprise. 

And bid alternate passions fall and rise ! " f 

While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove \ 

Now burns with glory, and then melts with love, 

• Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow, 
' Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow : 

Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found," 380 

And the world's victor stood subdu'd by Sound ! 
The pow'r of Music all our hearts allow, 
And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now. 
X, Avoid Extremes ; and shun the fault of such, \ 
Who still are pleas'd too little or too much. 
At ev'ry trifle scorn to take offence. 
That always shows great pride, or little sense ; ' 
Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best, 
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. 
\ Yet let not each gay Turn thy rapture move ;^^ \ 390 

• For fools admire, but men of sense approve : / 
As things seem large which we thro' mists descry, 
Dulness is ever apt to magnify. 

Some foreign writers, some our own despise ; 
The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize. 
Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is apply 'd 
To one small sect, and all are damn'd beside. 
Meanly they seek the blessing to confine, 
And force that sun but on a part to shine, 



I. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 13 

Whicli not alone the southern wit sublimes, 400 

But ripens spirits in cold northern climes ; 
Which from the first has shone on ages past, 
Enlights the present, and shall warm the last ; 
Tho' each may feel increases and decays, 
And see now clearer and now darker days. 
Begard not then if Wit be old or new, \ 

xBut blaBfie the false, and value still the true. ^ 
Some ne'er advance a Judgment of their own. 
But catch the spreading notion of the Town ; 
They reason and conclude by precedent, 410 

And own stale nonsense* which they ne'er invent. 
Some judge of authors' names, not works, and then 
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. 
Of all this servile herd the worst is he 
That in proud dulness joins with Quality. 
A constant Critic at the great man's board. 
To fetch and carry nonsense for my Lord. 
What woful stuff this madrigal would be. 
In some starv'd hackney sonneteer, or me ? 
But let a Lord once own the happy lines, 420 

How the wit brightens ! how the style refines ! 
Before his sacred name flies ev'ry fault. 
And each exalted stanza teems with thought ! 
V The Vulgar thus through Imitation err ; 
As oft the Learn'd by being singular ; 
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng 
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong ; 
So Schismatics the plain believers quit, 
And are but damn'd for having too much wit. 
- Some praise at morning what they blame at night ; 430 
' But always think the last opinion -right. 
A Muse by these is like a mistress us'd, 
This hour she's idoliz'd, the next abus'd ; 
While their weak heads like towns unfortify'd, 
'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. 



14 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

Ask them the cause ; they're wiser still, they say ; 

And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day. 

We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow, 

Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so. 

Once School-divines this zealous isle o'erspread ; 440 

Who knew most Sentences, was deepest read ; 

Faith, Gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed. 

And none had sense enough to be confuted : 

Scotists and Thomists, now, in peace remain. 

Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane. 

If faith itself has diff'rent dresses worn. 

What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn ? 

Oft', leaving what is natural and fit, 

The current folly proves the ready wit ; 
. And authors think their reputation safe, 450 

• Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh. 
Some valuing those of their own side or mind, 

Still make themselves the measure of mankind : 

Fondly we think we honour merit then, 

When we but praise ourselves in other men. 

Parties in Wit .attend on those of State, 

And public faction doubles private hate. 

Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose, 

In various shapes of Parsons, Critics, Beaus ; 

But sense surviv'd, when merry jests were past ; - 460 

For rising merit will buoy up at last. 

Might he return, and bless once more our eyes, 

New Blackmores, and new Milbourns must arise : 
, ' Nay should great Homer lift his- awful head, 

Zoilus again would start up from the dead. 

Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue ; 

But like a shadow, proves the substance true ; 

For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known.. 

Th' opposing body's grossness, not its own, 

When first that sun too pow'rf ul beams displays, 470 

It draws up vapours which obscure its rays ; 



II. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 15 

• But ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way, 
Reflect new glories and augment the day. 
iBe thou the first true merit to befriend ; - 
His praise is lost, who stays, till all commend. 
Short is the date> alas, of modern rhymes, 
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes. 
No longer now that golden age appears, 
When Patriarch-wits surviv'd a thousand years : 
Now length of Fame (our second life) is lost, 480 

And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast ; 
Our sons their fathers' failing language see, 
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be. 
So when the faithful pencil has design'd 
Some bright Idea of the master's mind, 
Where a new world leaps out at his command, 
And ready Nature waits upon his hand ; 
When the ripe colours soften and unite, 
And sweetly melt into just shade and light ; 
When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490 

And each bold figure just begins to liv«, 
The treach'rous colours the fair art betrUy, 
And all the bright creation fades away ! 

Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things, , 
Atones not for that envy which it brings. 
In youth alone its empty praise we boast, 
But soon the short-liv'd vanity is lost : 
Likfe some fair flow'r the early spring supplies. 
That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies. 
What is this Wit, which must our cares employ ? 500 

The owner's wife, that other men enjoy ; 
Then most our trouble still when most admir'd, 
And still the more we give, the more requir'd ; 
Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease. 
Sure some to vex, but never all to please ; 
'Tk what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun, 
By fools 'tis hated, and by ki aves undone ! 



16 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

, If Wit so much from Ign'rance undergo, 
'Ah let not Learning too commence its foe ! 
Of old, those met rewards who could excel, 510 

And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well : 
Tho' triumphs were to gen'rajs only due, 
Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too. 
Now, they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown, 
Employ their pains to spurn some others down ; 
And while self-love each jealous writer rules. 
Contending wits* become the sport of fools : 
But still the worst with most regret commend, 
For each ill Author is as bad a Friend. 
To what base ends, and by what abject ways, .620 

Are mortals urg'd thro' sacred lust of praise I 
Ah ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, -^^ 
jNor in the Critic let the Man be lost, 
teood-nature and good-sense must ever joinl 

. (To err is human, to forgive, divine. 3^ 
But if in noble minds some dregs remain 
Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain ; 
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes, 
Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times. 
No pardon vile Obscenity should find, 530 

Tho' wit and art conspire to move your mind ; 

, But Dulness with Obscenity must prove 
As shameful, sure, as Impotence in love. . 
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease, - 
Sprung the rank weed, and thriv'd with large increase : 
When love was all an easy Monarch's care ; 
Seldom at council, never in a war : 
Jilts ruFd the state, and statesmen farces writ ; 
Nay wits had pensions, and young Lords had wit : - 
The Fair sate panting at a Courtier's play, 540 

And not a Mask went unimprov'd away : 
The modest fan was lifted u.d no more. 
And Virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before. 




I. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 17 

The following licence of a Foreign reign 

Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain ; 

Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, 

And taught more pleasant methods of salvation ; 

Where Heav'n's free subjects might their rights dispute, 

Lest God himself should seem too absolute : 

Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, 550 

And Vice admir'd to find a flatt'rer there ! 

Encourag'd thus, Wit's Titans brav'd the skies, 

And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies. 

These monsters, Critics ! with 3^our darts engage. 

Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage ! 

Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, 

Will needs mistake an author into vice ; 

\A11 seems infected that th' infected spy, 

• As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye. 



III. 

' Rules for the Conduct of Manners in a Critic. 1. Candour, v. 563. 
Modesty, v. 566. Good-breeding, v. 57Q? Sincerity, and Freedom of 
advice^ v. 578. 2. When one's Counsel is to he restrained, v. 584. 
Character of an incorrigible Poet, v. 600. And of an impertinent 
Critic, V. 610, etc. Character of a good Critic, v. 629.^ The History 
of Criticism, and Characters of the best Critics, Aristotle, v. 645. 
Horace, v. 653. Dionysius, v. 665. Petronius, v. 667. Quintilian, 
V. 670. Longinus, v. 675. Of the Decay of Criticism, and its Eevival. 
Erasmus, v.^ 693. Vida, v. 705. Boileau, v. 714. Lord Eoscommon, 
etc. V. 725. Conclusion. 

Learn then what Morals Critics ought to show, 560 

For 'tis but half a Judge's task, to know. 

Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join ; y 
(}In all you speak, let truth and candour shine : ^ 

That not alone what to your sense is due 

All may allow ; but seek your friendship too, 
( JBe silent always when you doubt your sense ; 

And speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence : 



\^ 



18 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. in. 

, Some positive, persisting fops we know, 

. Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so ; 

But you, with pleasure own your errors past, 6V0 

And make each day a Critic on the last. 
'Tis not enough, your counsel still be true ; 

Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do ; 
[Men must be taught as if you taught them not, 
\A.nd things unknown proposed as things forgot. 

rtVithout Good Breeding, truth is disapprov'd : 

iThat only makes superior sense beloved. 
Be niggards of advice on no pretence ; 

For the worst avarice is that of sense. 

With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust, 680 

Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. 
J Fear not the anger of the wise to raise ; 

Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise. 
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take, 

But Appins reddens at each word you speak, 

And stares, tremendous, with a threat'ning eye. 

Like some fierce Tyrant in old tapestry. 

Fear most to tax an'teonourable fool, 

Whose right it is, uncensur^d, to be dull ; \ 

Such, without wit, are Poets when they please, 590 

As without learning they can take Degrees. 
•Leave dang'rous truths to unsuccessful Satires, 
• And flattery to fulsome Dedicators, . 

Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more, 
yThan when they promise to give scribbling o'er. 
y^Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, 
/And charitably let the dull be vain : 

Your silence there is better than your spite, 

For who can rail so long as they can write % 

Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, 600 

And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. 

False steps but help them to renew the race, 

As, after stumbling, Jades will mend their pace. 



III. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. 19 

What crowds of these, impenitently bold, 

In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, 

Still run on Poets, in a raging vein, 

EVn to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, 
/ Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, 
\ And rhyme with all the rage of Impotence. 
^^ Such shameless Bards we have ; and yet 'tis true, 610 

There are as mad, abandon'd Critics too. 

The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, 

With loads of learned lumber in his head, 

With his own tongue still edifies his ears, 

And always list'ning to himself appears. 

All books he reads, and all he reads assails, 

From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales. 

With him, most authors steal their works, or buy ; 

Garth did not write his own Dispensary. 

Name a new Play, and he's the Poet's friend, 620 

Nay show'd his faults — but when would Poets mend ? 

No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd, 

Nor is Paul's church more, safe than Paul's churchyard : 
1 Nay, fly to Altars ; there they'll tlfec you dead \ 
I For Fools^ush jn.wJxere Angels fear to tread, n-— ---^"" 
"~*^5istrustful sense with modest caution speaks, "j 

It still looks home, and short excursions makes ; !- 

But rattling nonsense in full vclleys breaks, J 

And never shock'd, and never i^urn'd aside, 
^^ Bursts out, resistless, with a thund'ring tide. 630 

/' But Where's the man, who counsel can bestow, 
Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know ? V 
Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite ; (\ \^ ** . 

Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right \ ' j C 

Tho' learn'd, well-bred ; and tho' well-bred, sincere, ; 

Modestly bold, and humanly severe : 1 

* Who to a friend his faults can freely show, I 

* And gladly praise the merit of a foe ? 
Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd ; 



I 



20 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. in. 

A knowledge both of books and human kind : 640 

Gen'rous converse ; a soul exempt from pride ; 
And love to praise, with reason on his side ? 

Such once were Critics ; such the happy few, 
Athens and Eomie in better ages knew. 

• The mighty Stagirite first left the shore, 

• Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore : 
He steer'd securely, and discover'd far. 

Led by the light of the Maeonian Star. 
Poets, a race long unconfin'd, and free, 
Still fond and proud of savage liberty, 650 

Eeceived his laws ; and stood convinc'd 'twas fit, 
Who conquer'd Nature, should preside o'er Wit. 
Horace still charms with graceful negligence, 
And without method talks us into sense, 
Will, like a friend, familiarly convey 
The truest notions in the easiest way. 
He, who supreme in judgment, as in wit, 
Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, 

• Yet judg'd with coolness, tho' he sung with fire ; 

His Precepts teach but what his works inspire. 660 

Our Critics take a contrary extreme, 

They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm : 

Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations 

By Wits, than Critics in as wrong Quotations. 

See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine, 
And call new beauties forth from ev'ry line ! 

Fancy and art in gay Petronius please, 
The scholar's learning, with the courtier's ease. 

In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find 
The justest rules, and clearest method join'd : 670 

Thus useful arms in magazines we place, 
All rang'd in order, and dispos'd with grace, 
But less to please the eye, than arm the hand, 
Still fit for use, and ready at command. 

Thee, bold Longinus f all the Nine inspire, 



in. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM, 21 

And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire. 

An ardent Judge, who zealous in his trust, 

With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just ; 

Whose own example strengthens all his laws ; 

And is himself that great Sublime he draws. 680 

Thus long succeeding Critics justly reign'd, 
Licence repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd. 
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew ; 
And Arts still follow'd where her Eagles flew ; 
From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom, 
And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome. 
With Tyranny, then Superstition join'd. 
As that the body, this enslav'd the mind ; 
Much was believ'd, but little understood, 
And to be dull was constru'd to be good ; 690 

A second deluge Learning thus o'er-run. 
And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun. 

At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, 
(The glory of the Priesthood, and the Shame !) 
Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age, 
And drove those holy Yandals off the stage. ^ 

But see ! each Muse, in Leo's golden days, 
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays, 
Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread. 
Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head. 700 

Then Sculpture and her sister-arts revive ; 
Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live ; 
With sweeter notes each rising Temple rung ; 
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung. 
Immortal Vida : on whose honour'd brow . 
The Poet's bays and Critic^s ivy grow : 
Cremona now shall ever boast thy name. 
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame-!- 

But soon by impious arms from Latium chas'd. 
Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd ; 710 

Thence Arts o'er all the northern world advance, 



22 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. m. 

But Critic-learning flourish'd most in France : 
The rules a nation, born to serve, obeys ; 
And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. 
But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'd, 
And kept unconquer'd, and uncivilized ; 
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, 
We still defy'd the Romans, as of old. 
Yet some there were, among the sounder few 
Of those who less presum'd, and better knew, 720 

Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, 
And here restor'd Wit's fundamental laws. 
Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell, 
" Nature's chief Master-piece is writing well." 
Such was Boscommon, not more learn'd than good, 
With manners gen'rous as his noble blood ; 
To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, 
And ev'ry author's merit, but his own. — 

Such late was Walsh — the Muse's judge and friend, 
Who justly knew to blame or to commend ; 730 

To failings mild, but zealous fofj^esert ; . ^ 
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. 
This humble praise|i]Jftmented shade ! receive. 
This praise aOeast^ grateful Muse may give : 
The lVO*se, wliose early voice you taught to sing, 
PrescriVd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing, 
(He:(* ^fiide now lost) no more attempts to rise. 
But in low numbers short excursions tries : 
Content, if hence th' unlearn'd their waffts may view, 
The learn'd reflect on what before they knew : 740 

Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame ; 
^ Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame. 
Averse* alike to flatter, or offend ; 
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend. 



NOTES. 



I. 

4. sense, that is perception, faculty of critical appreciation* 

5. in that ... in this, in tiring our patience by bad writing, in 
misleading our sense by * judging ill.' 

6. censure. The word censure (directly from the Lat. censeo), 
properly means to weigh or estimate, to form a judgment of a 
thing, and as judgments are often unfavourable, it came to mean 
to blame or reprimand, and that meaning it often had in Pope*s 
time, and always has now. , 

9. *Tis with our judgment*" as our watches. This very in- 
genious simile was perhaps suggested by a passage in Sir John 
k^jij^ling's epilogue to his tragi-comedy Aglaura : 
" But as when an authentic watch is shown, 
Each m^m winds up and rectifies his own, 
So m ou^ wy judgments." 
But Pope has given it quite another turn. 

11. In Poets as true genius, etc. Pope, following Longinus, 
places a great critic almost on the same level as a great original 
genius. Both must be born and not simply made, both "derive 
their light from heaven." This is probably not far from the 
truth ; for taste, the essential characteristic of the true critic, and 
genius, the essential characteristic of the true artist, are essentially 
but one faculty : genius is taste in its creative impulse, taste is 
genius in its elective energy. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, 
defines a true genius as *' a mind of large general powers accident- 
ally determined in some particular direction," but modern subtlety 
distinguishes between genius and talent : for which see De Quincey 
(Article on Keat's Works, Vol. v., p. 275, and Autobiographical 
Sketches, Works y Vol. xiv., 198), and Lord Lytton's famous lines 
beginning : 

" Talent convinces, genius but excites ; 
This takes the reason, that the soul delights," etc. 
23 



24 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. i. 

15, 16. Let sucli teach others. In the English of the sixteenth, 
seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, * who ' is commonly used 
as the correlative of ' such,' as in this poem in lines 385 and 511. 
There is an ambiguity in the expression * themselves excel,' them- 
selves is of course the nominative not the objective case. As an 
illustration of his remark Pope quotes from Pliny : "De pictore, 
sculptore, fictore nisi artifex judicare non potest," only an artist 
can pass judgment on a painter, sculptor, and statuary. Mr. 
Elwin quotes Addison, Tatler, Oct. 19th, 1710: " It is ridiculous 
for any man to criticise the works of another who has not dis- 
tinguished himself by his own performances." But Johnson's 
robust good sense was nearer the mark when he said, with refer- 
ence to a similar remark : ** This is not just reasoning. You may 
abuse a tragedy though you cannot write one. You may scold a 
carpenter who has made you a bad table though yv cannot 
make a table. It is not your trade to make tables." — Croker's 
BosweWs Johnson, p. 139. Still, we cannot but feel with Serjeant 
Maynard, who was fond of saying, ''Felices essent artes, si nuUi 
de eis judicarent nisi artifices," ' Happy would the arts be if none 
but connoisseurs were their critics. ' 

17. wit. This word occurs some forty-six times in the course 
of the poem, with various shades of meaning which should be 
carefully distinguished. Its derivation is from the A. -S. loitan, * to 
know,' so that its primary meaning is (a) the knowing power, 
pure intellect, mental capacity as in this place and in lines 53, 
61, 210 and elsewhere ; then (6) in a slightly wider sense, genius, 
as in line 657 ; then (c) as a synonym for ingenious or gifted 
writers, as in line 36 ; next {d) it comes to mean knowledge, 
learning, or ingenuity, as in 259, 447, 468, 494, 508, particularly 
* polite learning,' 652. Next it is a synonym (e) for imagination 
or fancy, as in 292, 590, 717, 722. Then (/) it is employed for 
judgment, as in the couplet 80, 81 : 

" Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse, 
Want as much more, to turn it to its use," 
where it is employed in a double sense, imagination, and the 
control of imagination, i e. judgment. Lastly, it is employed in 
the sense in w^hicli it was occasionally used in Pope's time and is 
generally used now : namely, as "a combination of hetero- 
geneous images, the discovery of occult resemblances between 
things apparently dissimilar," as in line 28. 

" In search of wit these lose their common sense," 
and In line 292, 

" One glaring Chaos and wild heap of wit.' 
For the use of the word in line 297 see the note there. 

20. Most have the seeds of judgment. Pope quotes Cicero, 
de Orat. in. (ch. 1., 195): "Omnestacito quodam sensu, sine 



L NOTES. 25 

uUa arte aut ratione, quae sint in artibus ac rationibus, recta et 
prava dijudicant"; 'AH men, by a sort of tacit sense, without 
any artistic skill or reasoning power, distinguish between what is 
right and wrong in art and reasoning." 

24. But. Only. 

25. Notice the use of the triplet which Pope employs eight 
times in the course of the poem. It was introduced, like the 
Alexandrine, to give variety to the heroic couplet. It was 
introduced by the Elizabethan poets, and is to be found in Hall, 
Phaer, and Chapman : used very sparingly by Denham and 
Cowley, it was first used in excess by Dryden. After the trans- 
lation of Homer Pope very rarely employed it. 

26. maze of schools. Conflicting sects and systems, which 
are compared to perplexing labyrinths. Maze properly means 
confusion or perplexity. Skeat traces it to the Scandinavian 
masa, ' to be continually busy at a thing,' and to the Middle 
English masen^ ' to confuse or puzzle.' Amaze is the same word 
with the A.-S. intensive prefix. 

27. coxcombs. Coxcomb is properly a fool or fop, and is a 
corruption of cock's comb, a cock's crest being symbolic of a 
swaggering fool. The sense is very badly expressed, the meaning 
is : And some, whom nature only meant to be fools become 
conceited fellows. Elwin happily quotes Dryden, Hind and 
Panther, m. 1107: 

' * For fools are doubly fools, endeav'ring to be wise. " 

28. In search of wit. See note on line 17. 

29. And then turn Critics. Parodied from Dryden, Medal, 51 : 
" The wretch turned loyal in his own defence." 

30. Each burns alike. In the first edition this couplet ran : 
* * Those hate as rivals all that write : and others 

But envy wits as eunuchs envy lovers." 

The couplet as it now stands is much more complicated in expres- 
sion ; it may be thus paraphrased : Those who can write burn 
with the spite of rivals, those who cannot write with the envious 
spite of impotence. In the ' who ' for ' he who,' Pope imitates, 
as he often does, a common use of the Latin qui. Cf . lines 35 and 
169 : ** I know there are, to whose," etc., " There are who judge." 
So, too, Prologue to the Satires, '115: "There are who to my 
person pay their court." " Who can, or cannot," is of course in 
apposition to "each.'* For the sentiment cf. Dryden 's Prologue 
to the Second Part of the Conquest of Granada : 

** They who write ill, and they who ne'er durst write, 
Turn critics out of mere revenge and spite. " 

32. still. Constantly, always, continually. 



26 AN ESS Ay ON CRITICISM. i. 

34. If Msevius scribble. Maevius, who is generally coupled 
with Bavins, was, like Bavius, a wretched poetaster, contemporary 
with Virgil and Horace, and wonld long since have been forgotten 
had he not been gibbeted by Virgil, Eel. in. 90: "Qui Bavium 
non odit, amet tua carmina, Maevi. " ' May the man who loathes 
not Bavins love your strains, Maevius ' ; and by Horace, who in 
the Tenth Epode calls him " olentum," ' stinking,' and curses the 
ship which is carrying him to Greece. 

In Apollo's spite. Apollo was the god of music and poetry. 
The phrase is from Dryden, Translation of Persius, Sat. i, 100 : 
" Who would be poets in Apollo's spite." 

36. Some have at first for Wits, etc. This was interpreted 
at the time as glancing at John Dennis, a well-known critic, with 
whom Pope was afterwards embroiled in no very reputable 
controversy. He is referred to by name in line 270, and 
allusively in line 585. For Wits see note on line 17. 

38. neither can. The 'neither' should properly go with 
* wits ' : it is an illustration of the many grammatical inaccuracies 
which abound in this poem. 

39. As heavy mules. There are two points here ; the first is 
that they are neither one thing nor the other, and the second 
that they are barren. 

40. witling. The suffix *-ling' expresses diminution. Cf. 
duckling, gosling, and the like. 

41. half-form'd insects. This passage was no doubt suggested 
by Dryden in the Dedication of his Virgil : "You will look on 
these half lines hereafter as the imperfect products of a hasty 
muse, like the frogs and serpents on the Nile, part of them 
kindled into life, and part a lump of unformed, unanimated 
mud." The grammatical construction, though a little loose, is 
correct : ' One knows not what to call those half -learned witlings, 
as numerous in our island as,' etc. 

43. equivocal. Properly of like sound, so ambiguous, doubtful. 
Equivocal generation is the production of animals without any 
certain parentage. Many of the creatures on the Nile were sup- 
posed to have originated ,in this way, formed, it was believed, by 
the action of the sun upon the slime. 

44. teU, to count. A.-S. tellan. 

45. Or one vain wit's. The construction is very faulty, and 
was ridiculed by the author of the Supplement to the Profomidy 
quoted by Elwin : "I have often thought that one pert fellow's 
tongue might tire a hundred pair of attending ears, but I never 
conceived that it could communicate any lassitude to the tongues 
©f the bystanders before." Pope's meaning is that * it would tire 
% hundred ordinary tongues to talk as much as one vain wit.' 



I. NOTES. 27 

47. noble name. Note, again, Pope's insistence on the dignity 
of criticism, 

48-50. Be sure yourself. An imitation of Horace, Ars Poet. 
38 seq. : 

** Sumite materiam vesfcris, qui scribitis, aequam 
Viribus ; et versate diu, quid ferre recusent, 
Quid valeant humeri." 
* Good authors, take a brother bard's advice, 
Ponder your subject o'er not once nor twice, 
And oft and oft consider, if the weight 
You hope to lift be or be not too great. ' 

(Coning ton's translation.) 

52-9. Nature to all thing's . . . melt away. Pope in this passage 
is commenting on the equilibrium which Nature seems to main- 
tain in man's faculties ; if the memory or the purely receptive 
faculties are too powerful, the understanding or the intellect 
generally will be proportionately weak ; if imag ination pre- 
dominate, the memory will be defective. It is easy to question 
the soundness of his theory by appealing to particular instances, 
to show, for example, that Dr. Johnson and Macaulay united 
extraordinarily tenacious memories with powerful understandings ; 
and that Milton and Dante united marvellous imaginative 
power with equal power of receptivity or memory, but speaking 
generally. Pope is right. ' Pretending,' in line 53, means aspiring 
or ambitious : for 'wit,' see note on line 17. 

61. vast is art, etc. Suggested by the famous maxim which 
opens the Aphorisms of Hippocrates, 6 /3/os ^pax^s, rj 8k rixvij 
fioLKpT), "Life is short but art is long": for 'wit' see note on 
line 17. ' 

62. peculiar arts. From the Latin peculium, 'private pro- 
perty,' so wHat belongs to oneself, particular. 

68. follow i5pature. So Shaftesbury : "Frame taste by the just 
standard of iiature." Bowles remarks that there is some 
difficulty in determining what is meant by ' Nature ' and her 
'just standard'; but Pope means by Nature simplicity and 
sincerity, opposing the term to those metaphysical ideas of nature 
which had prevailed during the Middle Ages ; or more compre- 
hensively the antithesis of what is affected and artificial. His 
meaning is made more clear by a reference to line 185, " Nature 
and Homer were, he found, the same." 

76. informing : moulding, animating. Lat. informare. 

80. wit. See note on line 17. 

83. meant. From the A.-S. mcenan, ' to intend ' : the full con- 
struction requires 'for.' Cf. line 27, where there is the same 
ellipse. 



28 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. i. 

84. Restrain his fury. Cf. Longinus, De Sub., sect, ii., 5ei ykp 
avTois Cos K^vTpov TToWaKLSf oijTio dy] Kot xaXti'oO, " for as they often 
require the spur, so also indeed the curb." 

85. The winged courser. Pegasus, the horse of the Muses, 
who is fabled to have struck out with his hoof the fountain 
Hippocrene on Mount Helicon. 

8Q. gen'rous. Thoroughbred or high-bred. Lat. generosus. 

87. mettle. Spirit, ardour. It is the same word as ' metal, ' and 
the meaning is derived from the temper of a metal sword blade. 
There is an exact analogy in the Greek alxp^'hi which means 
properly the point of a spear, and thence temper, spirit, or dis- 
position. 

88. Those Rules of old. All canons or rules of criticism are 
nothing but deductions from the works of great artists, and 
those works, being inspired by, and exactly true to, nature, are 
identified with nature. Cf. Dry den's Preface to Troilus and 
Gressida : *' If the rules be well considered, we shall find them to 
be made only to reduce nature to method." 

90. Nature, like liberty. Till the edition of 1743, * monarchy* 
was the reading for * liberty. ' The meaning is : Nature, like 
liberty, is restrained only by the laws which she herself ordained 
— a questionable and somewhat unintelligible remark. Longinus 
seems nearer the mark when he observes {De Sub., section ii.), 
that what curbs nature are the restraints of art. 

94. Parnassus' top. Parnassus, the mountain sacred to the 
muses, was in Phocis. 

96. th' Immortal prize. The reference is to the prizes offered 
at the dramatic competitions at the festival of Dionysus at 
Athens. 

98. precepts . . . giv'n. A construction answering to the Latin 
ablative absolute, * being given.' 

105. Who could not. See note on line 30. 

106. Against the Poets. Wakefield quotes some remarks of 
Dryden in his Dedication to Ovid as furnishing the germ of this 
passage: '* Formerly the critics were quite another species of 
men. They were defenders of poets and commentators on their 
work. ... Are our auxiliary forces turned our enemies? Are 
they from our seconds become principals against us ? " 

108. 'Pothecaries. For apothecaries, derived from the Low 
Lat. apothecarius, properly ' the keeper of a store-house,' derived 
in its turn from the Greek airodriKrj, ' a store-house. ' 

109. Doctor's hills. Prescriptions. 

112. Some on the leaves. This passage shows that Pope's 
contempt for philologists, commentators, et id genus omne, did 



I. NOTES. 29 

not date from his own failure as an editor of Shakespeare, as 
Johnson implies. 

117. explain the meaning'. Cf. the admirable couplet in the 
Dunciad, iv. 251, 252: 

" Explain a thing till all men doubt it, 
And write about it, Goddess, and about it." 

120. fable, plot in a play, narrative in an epic. 
/ 121-3. With these remarks should be compared what Sainte 
Beuve says about the questions which a critic should ask himself 
before he passes judgment on an author, Nouveauvc Lundis, 
art. on Chateaubriand. 

123. cavil, raise captious objections. From Lat. cavillari, 
cavilla, * empty, vain speech.' 

124. Be Homer's works. Suggested by Horace, Ars Poet., 
268, 269 : 

' ' Vos exemplaria Graeca 
Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna." 
Cf. too Sheffield, Essay on Poetry : 

** Read Homer once and you can read no more, 
For all books else appear so mean and poor ; 
Verse will seem prose, but still persist to read. 
And Homer will be all the books you need. " 
129. Mantuan Muse, Virgil. Publius Vergilius Maro was born 
at Andes, a small village near Mantua, in Cisalpine Gaul. 
' Dante calls him [Purgat. vi. 74) "Mantovano," 

131. A work t' outlast. Pope was taunted by Dennis with 
being guilty of a bull in speaking of a work which was to outlast 
immortality, and altered the lines, 

* ' When first young Maro sung of kings and wars, 
Ere warning Phoebus touched his trembling ears" ; 
but afterwards, feeling no doubt that Dennis' objection was hyper- 
critical, he restored, in the last edition, the former reading. 

138. Stagirite, Aristotle, born at Stagira, which was a town 
in Thrace, B.C. 384. His extant critical works are the Poetic 
and the Rhetoric. The 'i' in Stagira is long, but Pope, following 
Dryden, shortens it here as elsewhere. 

141. Some "beauties. Elwin aptly quotes Rapin, Collected 
Worlcs, Vol. II., p. 173; English translation, 'There are no 
precepts to teach the hidden graces and all that secret power of 
poetry which passes to the heart.' 
150. Pegasus, see note on 1 86. 

152. torave disorder. Cf. Soame and Dryden of the ode in 
thfe translation of Boileau's Art of Poetry (quoted by Elwin) : 
" And by a brave disorder shows her art," 



30 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. i. 

Cf . too Pope himself, of Homer, in the Temple of Fame : 
'* And here and there disclosed a brave neglect." 
159. gloriously oflfend, an oxymoron transferred apparently 
from Dry den's Aurungzehe, Act iv. : 

** Mean soul, and dar'st not gloriously offend.'" 
For * wits,' see note on 1. 17. 
161. their, their own. 

167. remorse, pity, the common meaning of the word in our 
old writers. 

169. there are, to whose. See note on 1. 30. 

170. faults. Not a false rhyme with * thoughts,* for the * 1 ' 
was not sounded before nor in Pope's time. 

172-4. Which ... But, suggested by Horace, Ars Poetica, 
361-3 : 

" Ut pictura, poesis erit ; quae, si propius stes, 
Te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes ; 
Haec amat obscurum, volet haec sub luce videri." 
* It is with a poem as with a picture. This attracts you the more 
the closer you stand to it ; another the further you stand from 
it. One courts obscurity j this will prefer to be seen in a full 
light,' 

180. Homer nods. Cf. Horace, Ars Poet, 359: 

" Indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus." 
* I take it ill whenever dear old Homer nods.' 
Pope may have designed this to glance at Lord Roscommon, 
who writes in his Essay on Translated Verse^ speaking of Homer's 
heroes : 

** Whose railing heroes and whose wounded gods 
Make some suspect he snores as well as nods." 
— ^g2. Above the reach. This line is transferred literally from 
Roscommon's Epilogue to Alexander the Great. 

sacrilegious. Profane or Impious, from sacra legere, 
*to gather up sacred things.' 

183. Secure from flames. The allusions in this couplet are, 
according to Warburton, to the destruction of the Alexandrine 
and Palatine libraries by fire; the fiercer rage of Zoilus and 
Maevius and their followers against wit ; the irruption of the 
barbarians into the Empire ; and the long reign of ignorance and 
superstition in the cloisters. 

184. all-involving, all-covering or all-investing. 

186. consenting Pseans. A paean was properly a hymn to the 
Healing God, Apollo ; the Greek iraxdv ; * consenting, ' from 
conseniire, is sympathetic. 



I. NOTES. 31 

189. Hail, Bards. This noble passage is a fitting climax to the 
first stage of the poem. The first line is a translation of Virgil's 
" Magnanimi heroes ! nati melioribus annis." 

Aen, VI. 649. 

194. inust not yet. The force of * must ' will be best under- 
stood by an account of its etymology. The verb from which it 
is derived, motan, is so defective that it was used only in the 
present tense of the Middle English form moty moote^ ' I am 
able,' 'I can,' the preterite of which is moste, *I could,' 'I 
might, ' * I ought ' ; and so the idea of compulsion was associated 
with it. CI. the German milssen. Sometimes, however, it 
recurs to its original meaning, as here : ' worlds that are not able 
to be found — cannot j'^et be found.' Pope's line, as Wakefield 
notes, is an imitation of a line in Cowley's Davideis, ii. .833 : 
"And reach to worlds that must not yet be found." 



II. 

203. "bias. An inclination towards one side, a slope. French, 
hiais, *a slant,' 'slope.' Its common application is to the 
bulge on a bowling ball, or the curved course taken by the ball. 

204. Pride. Used in the sense of * arrogant vanity,' the 
Xavvbrfis of Aristotle. For the idea cf. Essay on Man, epist. Ii. 
285-6. 

" Each want of happiness by hope supplied, 
And each vacuity of sense by pride ; 
These build as fast as knowledge can destroy. " 

206. For as in bodies. Pope's physiology here is all nonsense, 
and the language is so confused that he appears to assign blood 
and spirits to souls as well as to bodies. 

214. Make use of ev'ry . . . foe. A friend visiting Archbishop 
Tillotson observed in his library a shelf of books of different 
forms and sizes, but all very richly bound and finely gilt and 
lettered. "Those," said the archbishop, "are my own personal 
friends, and, which is more, whom I have myself made such (for 
they meant to be my enemies) by the use I have made of those 
hints which their malice hath suggested to me, and from which 
I have received more profit than from the advice of my best and 
most cordial friends; and, therefore, you see I have rewarded 
them accordingly." 

216. Pierian 'spring. Hippocrene. The" Muses were called 
Pierides, probably from Pieria, near Mount Olympus, where 
they were first worshipped. There was a legend that the nine 
daughters of Pierus challenged the Muses to sing on Mount 



32 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

Helicon ; and the mountain was so ravished with the sound of the 
Muses' songs that it was rising gradually to heaven, till Pegasus 
stopt its ascent by giving it a kick, and from this kick arose 
Hippocrene, the inspiring well of the Muses. 

216. The hint for this famous passage was, no doubt, derived 
from Bacon's Essay of Atheism : *'It is true that a little philo- 
sophy inclineth man's mind to Atheism, but depth in philosophy 
bringeth men's minds about to religion. " 

225. So pleas'd at first. This noble simile is pronounced 
by Dr. Johnson to be ''perhaps the best that English poetry 
can show. A simile, to be perfect," he continues, *' must both 
illustrate and ennoble the subject, must show it to the under- 
standing in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with 
greater dignity, but either of these qualities may be sufficient 
to recommend it. ... The simile of the Alps has no useless parts, 
yet affords a striking picture by itself : it makes the foregoing 
position better understood, and enables it to take faster hold 
on the attention ; it assists the apprehension and elevates the 
fancy" {Life of Pope). It detracts very little from Pope's credit 
that he may have found the germ of the simile in Drummond of 
Hawthornden, An Hymn of the Fairest Fair^ in Flowers of 
Zirni. The lines resembling Pope's may be compared : 
" Ah ! as a pilgrim who the Alps- doth pass 

When he some heaps of hills hath overwent 
Begins to think on rest, his journey spent, 
Till mounting some tall mountain he doth find 
More heights before him than he left behind." 
With the lesson Pope here teaches may be compared what the 
great civil lawyer Cujas said of his studies of the law : that at 
the end of the first ten years he thought he knew all that could 
be known ; at the end of the next decade he felt painfully that 
he knew very little ; the end of the third decade enabled him to 
realize the extent of his ignorance. 

233-4. A perfect Judge. This is very badly expressed, but the 
meaning is clear : A perfect judge will endeavour to put himself 
in the position of the author whom he is criticising, enter into 
his spirit, and approach him sympathetically. But Pope's illus- 
trative quotation from Quintilian, which it is not necessary to 
transcribe, would seem to imply that he meant that a critic should 
take as much trouble in judging a book as the author took 
in composing it. 

238. Wit. See note on 1. 17. 

239. But in such lays. In the case of. *In' is often used in 
this sense in Latin. With these lines may be compared 
Longinus, De Sub. xxxiii. 



XI, NOTES. 33 

244. peculiar. See note on 1. 62. 

247, 248. well-proportion'd dome. The reference is either to 
the Pantheon at Rome or to St. Peter's. 

251. appear. This is a mistake in grammar, as the nomina- 
tives are in the singular and 'or' is a disjunctive. 

256. none ... they. As 'none' is properly singular, being simply 
a contraction for no one^ it should not go with a plural verb. 
But it is commonly used with plural verbs, and usage in all 
languages carries as much authority as grammar. 

258. trivial. From Lat. trivialis, properly what is found 
at a trivium, a place where three roads meet. So trite, ' common- 
place.' With this couplet may be compared the passage which 
suggested it — Horace, Ars Poetica, 351, 352: 

" Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis 
Offendar maculis." 
* But when the shining passages predominate in a poem, I shall 
not take offence at a few blemishes.' 

261. verbal, minutely exact in words. In Shakespeare the 
word is used for verbose, or wordy. 

261. Lays down, the expression in the original is justly censured 
by Warton as very objectionable. 

262. For not to know. From Quintilian I.: "Ex quo mihi 
inter virtutes grammatici habebitur aliqua nescire." 'Hence I 
shall reckon among the virtues of a humanist to be ignorant 
of some things.' 

263-6. Most critics judge by parts and not by the whole. 
They lay stress on those subordinate parts of a poet's work 
which their own taste inclines them to appreciate and by these 
they judge of the whole work ; for these practically represent to 
them the \7hole work. They talk of principles, but are really 
guided by their own preferences. Cf. Lessing's remarks in the 
Preface to his Laocoon. 

267. La Mancha's Knight, Don Quixote. The passage which 
follows is not taken from Cervantes' work, but from a work 
purporting to be the Second Part of Don Quixote, written, to 
the great annoyance of Cervantes, by some one who called 
himself Don Alonzo Fernandez de Avellanada. Mr. Watts in 
his Life of Cervantes conjectures that this was a name assumed 
by Lope de Vega. The work was published in 1614. It was 
afterwards translated and remodelled by Le Sage. The passage 
referred to by Pope is as follows: "I am satisfied you'll compass 
your design," said the scholar, " provided you omit the combat in 
the lists." "Let him have a care of that," said Don Quixote 
interrupting him ; " that is the best part of the plot." "But, 
sir," quoth the Bachelor, "if you would have me adhere to 



34 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

Aristotle's rules, I must omit the combat." ** Aristotle, "replied 
the knight, " I grant was a man of some parts ; but his capacity 
was not unbounded : and give me leave to tell you, his authority 
does not extend over combats in the list, which are far above his 
narrow rules. Would you suffer the chaste Queen of Bohemia 
to perish? For how can you clear her innocence? Believe me, 
combat is the most honourable method you can pursue, and 
besides, it will add such grace to your play, that all the rules in 
the universe must not stand in competition with it. "Well, 
Sir Knight," replied the Bachelor, "for your sake and for the 
honour of chivalry I will not leave out the combat, and that 
it may appear the more glorious all the land of Bohemia shall 
be present at it, from the princes of the blood, to the very 
footmen. But still one difficulty remains, which is that our 
common theatres are not large enough for it." "There must 
be one erected on purpose," answered the Knight, "and, in a 
word, rather than leave out the combat the play had better 
be acted in a field or plain." 

270. Dennis ... Grecian stage. John Dennis (1657 to 1733-4) is 
now chiefly remembered as the butt of Pope's satire, but he 
was a man of no contemptible gifts and attainments. He was 
the author of several plays and operas and of voluminous 
critical writings, and both Dryden and Congreve had, at one 
time at least, a very high opinion of him. The best of his 
writings are his Original Letters, Familiar, Moral, and Critical. 
He came into collision with Pope after the appearance of the 
present poem, and the hostility between them, says Johnson, 
"though suspended for a short time was never appeased." He 
attacked the Rape of the Lock, and then ran amuck on Addison's 
Cato. This elicited from Pope a disgusting pamphlet, which 
was more disgraceful to its author than to its subject. Pope 
has attacked him in the Prologue to the Sat^ires and in the 
Dunciad, and contributed a sarcastic Prologue to the play 
acted for poor Dennis' benefit in December, 1733. The reference 
to the Grecian stage is probably to the remarks of Dennis on 
this subject in his Advancement and Reformation of Modem 
Poetry, published in 1701. 

271. sots, fools or blockheads. Fr. sot. The etymology is 
very doubtful. 

273. nice, discriminating. 

280. Stagirite, 3ee note on 1. 138. 

276. unities. The unities of action, time, and place were the 
deductions of the French critics from Aristotle's Poetics, and 
from the Greek tragedies. They were first formulated by 
Corneille in his three essays, published in 1659, and after that 
became the battle-ground of successive generations of critics. 
Stated briefly, the unity of action is the elimination of every- 



n. NOTES. 35 

thing which does not conduce directly to the catastrophe ;• the 
unity of time prescribes a revolution of the sun as the time 
to be comprised in the evolution of the plot ; the unity of place, 
that the scene must not change. For an admirable discussion 
of the correctness and incorrectness of this doctrine, see Schlegel, 
Lectures on Dramatic Literature, Lectures xvii. and xviii. and 
Twining's Dissertation in his translation of Aristotle's Poetics, 
Vol. I., pp. 337-41. 

277. were: the subjunctive mood, 'would be.' 

278. lists : the grounds enclosed for a tournament. Lat. lidum, 
'a thread,' a strip of silk or cloth marking the boundary. 

286. Curious not Imowing. From Petronius, as Pope himself 
noted, *'Non quidem doctus sed curiosus." 

289. Conceit. Conceit properly means a conception, notion, or 
idea, being derived from the Lat. concipio, conccptum ; then it 
was applied to an odd or fantastic notion, then to an over- 
estimation of oneself, the sense it generally bears now. Pope 
uses it in the second sense. 

292. Chaos. Properly an empty, gaping space. Greek x^^os, 
from x<^<^'f^i'f'> * ^o yawn ' ; then it got applied to matter — Ovid's 
"rudisindigestaque moles," and Milton's " matter unformed and 
void," confusion and disorder. For ^wit' see note on 1. 17. 

297, 298. True Wit is Nature. The key to the meaning of this 
somewhat obscure couplet is to be found partly in Dryden's 
Preface to the State of Innocence. " The definition of wit which 
has been so often attempted, and ever unsuccessfully, by many 
poets, is only this, that it is a propriety of thoughts and words," 
and partly in Boileau, who apparently suggested it : " Qu'est-ce 
qu'une pens^e neuve, brillante, extraordinaire? Ce n'est point, 
comme se le persuadent les ignorants, une pens^e que personne 
n'a jamais eu, ni dii avoir. C'est au contraire une pens^e qui a 
dti venir a tout le monde, et que quelqu'un s'avise le premier 
d'exprimer. Un bon mot n'est bon mot qu'en ce qu'il dit 
une chose que chacun pensoit, et qu'il la dit d'une mani^re 
vive, fine et nouvelle." What Pope means, then, is this, that 
as false wit perverts or distorts nature, by refracting it into 
unnatural and fantastic shapes, as a kaleidoscope does, so true 
wit is the power of representing nature not merely with pro- 
priety but in such a way that her native charms are heightened 
in the presentment. The second line is really only a repetition, 
slightly extended, of the idea in the first. Cf. lines 311-9, 
which form a good commentary on -this couplet. Cf. also Buck- 
ingham, Essay on Poetry, 270, 271, where distinguishing between 
* humour ' and ' wit,' he says : 

" Humour is all ; wit should be only brought 
To turn agreeably some proper thought. 



36 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

299. Something, whose truth. This is very elliptically ex- 
pressed. It may perhaps be explained in two ways, i.e. taking 
whose truth = the truth of which, as the objective after find, so 
*the truth of which we convinced (of that truth) find at first 
sight' ; or *of whose truth we find (ourselves) convinced at first 
sight.* Possibly it is a mixture of the two constructions. With 
these remarks of Pope compare Addison : " Wit and fine writing 
do not consist so much in advancing things that are new as in 
giving things that are known an agreeable turn. It is impossible 
for us, who live in the later ages of the world, to make observa- 
tions in criticism, morality, or in any art or science which have 
not been touched upon by others. We have little else left us 
but to represent the commonsense of mankind in more strong, 
more beautiful, or more uncommon lights."— Spectator, No. 253. 

301, 302. light, ... wit. There are many faulty rhymes in the 
poem, but there are few as bad as this. For * wit ' see note on 
1. 17. 

303. does *em good. A strange vulgarism, employed perhaps 
to mark the somewhat colloquial tone of the poem. 

308. take upon content. Take upon trust. Elwin quotes what 
Rymer says of the actor Hart, "What he delivers every one 
takes upon content." 

311. prismatic glass. '* A prism is a glass bounded with two 
equal and parallel triangular ends and three plain and well 
polished sides, which meet in three parallel lines, running from 
the three angles of one end to the three angles of the other 
end '* (Newton's definition, quoted by Johnson). 

319. decent, becoming. Lat. decens. 

320. conceit, here conception. See note on 1. 289. 
322. sort. Be of the same class with, so harmonize. 

324. some by old words ... pretence. Many years after Pope, 
Gifford in his Baviad, ridiculed those who 

*' For ekes and algates only deign to seek 
And live upon a whilom for a week." 

made pretence, lay claim to. 

328. Fungoso, a character in Ben Jonson's Every Man out 
of his Humour. He is described in the dramatis personae as 
"a student, one that has revelled in his time, and follows the 
fashion afar off, as a spy." 

329. These sparks. Johnson defines a spark as a lively, 
showy, splendid, gay man, adding "it is commonly used in 
contempt." 

332. doublets. This, formerly an outer garment with sleeves 
and sometimes skirts, became, about the middle of the seventeenth 



II. NOTES. 37 

century, an inner garment, developing at last into the modern 
Waistcoat. 

334. fantastic. The word derived directly from the Greek 
^pavTacrla^ 'a making visible,' * imagination,' hence our fantasy, 
fancy, etc. It gradually came to mean what is purely imaginary, 
80 whimsical or odd, 

341. Parnassus. See note to 1. 94. 

344. These equal syllables. Note how admirably these and 
the following verses imitate and illustrate what they satirize. 

346. expletives, from the Latin explere^ 'to fill up,' denote 
small superfluous words not needed by the sense, but introduced 
for the purpose of emphasis or rhythm. 

347. And ten low words. Warburton notices that this is 
borrowed from a passage in Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy : 
"He creeps along with ten little words in every line, and helps 
out his numbers with for, to, and unto, and all the petty exple- 
tives he can find." 

356. Alexandrine. An Alexandrine is a verse of six iambic feet 
and twelve or thirteen syllables in English, as is illustrated by 
the next line. The name is commonly derived from a poem of 
the twelfth century dealing with Alexander the Great and his 
fabulous adventures, and entitled, Alexandriade, ou Chanson de 
Geste D"* Alexandre le grand, the first poem written in this 
measure. It was commenced by Lambert le Court, and con- 
tinued by Alexandre de Bernay, known also as Alexandre de 
Paris, from whose name and not from the poem, according 
to some authorities, the name is derived. 

361. Denham... Waller. Sir John Denham (1615-1668) is chiefly 
celebrated as the author of Gooper'^s Hill, a poem ridiculously 
over-praised by his contemporaries and immediate successors. 
Thus Dryden, in the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, speaks of 
Denham's poetry as "majestic and correct"; and Pope, in 
Windsor Forest, 267, informs us that 

" On Cooper's Hill eternal wreaths shall blow," 
and in the same poem, line 271, calls him, echoing Dryden, 
'majestic Denham.' He was certainly one of the leaders of the 
'critical school,' and is fairly entitled to the praise of writing 
in a terse and smooth style. His four lines on the Thames are 
deservedly celebrated : 

" could I flow like thee, and make thy stream 
My great example, as it is my theme ; 
Tho* deep yet clear, tho' gentle, yet not dull, 
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full." 
Edmund Waller (1605-1687). The epithet 'sweet,' applied to 
Waller's verses, is more intelligible than the epithet applied to 



38 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

Denham's. Some of Waller's poems, such as the popular lyric, 
** Go, lovely rose," and the verses on old age, are never likely to 
be forgotten. His " Panegyric upon the Lord Protector " is not 
unworthy of the subject. Historically he is of great importance 
in English poetry; and though Dryden goes too far when he 
says in his preface to the Rival Ladies, that "the excellence 
and dignity of rhyme were never fully known till Mr. Waller 
taught it, he first made writing easily an art," yet he indicates 
truly Waller's position : he was, like Denham, one of the fathers 
of the * critical school. ' Waller's verse is polished and musical, 
his diction neat, terse, and felicitous. 

365. The sound must seem. In the verses which follow, Pope 
has imitated closely a passage in the third book of Vida's Poetica 
(see Introduction). Johnson's remarks in his Life of Pope on 
this passage, on Pope's attempts at onomatopoeia, or making the 
sound an echo to the sense, should be read. 

370. When Ajax strives, Ajax, the son of Telamon, was one 
of the giants in the army of the Greeks at Troy. He twice hurls 
stones in the Iliad : see Iliad, vii. 268-71 and Iliad, xii. 380-5. 

372. swift Camilla. Camilla, the warrior maiden of the 
Volsciani, is thus described by Virgil, Aen. vii. 808-11, in lines 
which Pope had in his mind when writing this passage. 
" nia vel intactae segetis per summa volaret 
Gramina, nee teneras cursu laesisset aristas ; 
Vel mare per medium, fluctu suspensa tumenti. 
Ferret iter, celeres nee tingueret aequore plantas." 
* She over the tops of the unsickled corn might have flitted and 
have harmed not in her course the tender ears, or through the 
midst of the sea have made her way, poised on the heaving wave, 
and not wetted her swift soles.' 

374. Timotheus. In these lines the reference is to Dryden's 
Alexander's Feast, where the poet represents the strains of 
Timotheus having these various effects on Alexander. The 
student should turn to this magnificent Ode, and Pope's lines will 
be readily intelligible. 

376. son of Libyan Jove. This refers to the famous legend 
that Alexander the Great was the son of Zeus Amnion, a Libyan 
deity, whose oracle was in the oasis of Ammonium in the Libyan 
desert. In the prologue to the Satires, line 117, Pope speaks 
of him as ** Ammon's great son. " 

384. is Dryden now, that is, the power and charm which 
Timotheus had as a musician, Dryden has as a poet, Dryden 
was the poetical father of Pope. " I learned versification wholly 
from Dryden's works, who had improved it much beyond any of 
our former poets" (Pope, in Spence's Anecdotes, Malone's Edit., 
p. 114). As Dryden, born in 1631, died in May, 1700, Pope had 



11. NOTES. 39 

not completed his twelfth year when he lost his master, whom, 
however, he saw once. 

391. fools admire. Exactly the Latin admirari, *to feel 
astonishment.' Cf. Hor. Epistles, i. vi. 1, 2: 

" Nil admirari prope res est una, Numici, 
Solaque, quae possit facere et servare heatum," 
which Creech turned : 

" Not to admire is all the art I know 
To make men happy and to keep them so," 
and this version Pope sarcastically adopted in his Imitation of 
that Epistle, where it stands as the opening couplet. It is curious 
that Pope should have been indebted to Creech for the very 
phrase, * fools admire.' 

Approve means * to put to the test,' 'prove by trial.' 
394. Some foreign writers. In this and the following line 
Pope refers to the controversy about the relative value and im- 
portance of the ancient and the modern writers, which, originating 
in France towards the end of the seventeenth century, spread to 
England and led to the famous Phalaris controversy, and to the 
composition of Swift's satire, the Battle of the Boohs. For an 
account of this see Macaulay's Essay on Sir William Temple and 
De Quincey's Essay on Bentley. 

397. To one small sect. This gave great offence to the Eoman 
Catholics, whose sentiments Pope literally expressed, though 
with a sarcastic turn. Pope's remarks in a letter to his friend 
Caryll are interesting. ' ' Nothing has been so much a scarecrow 
to our opponents as that too peremptory and uncharitable asser- 
tion of an utter impossibility of salvation to all but ourselves. I 
own to you I was glad of any opportunity to express my dislike 
of so shocking a sentiment as those of the religion t profess 
are commonly charged with, and I hoped a slight insinuation, 
introduced by a casual similitude only, could never have given 
offence. " 

398. Meanly they seek. The Roman Catholics taking excep- 
tion to this couplet also, Pope ingeniously explained that the * they ' 
referred to * Some ' in 1. 394. 

400. sublimes. This was a term for an operation in alchemy 
" whereby the subtler parts were separated from the grosser, and 
so the word came to mean ' to purify.' 

403. Enlights. For enlightens ; a very rare form of the word 
which Wakefield thinks was coined by Pope, but the Century 
Dictionary shows that it is to be found in Cowley : 

** The wisest king refined all pleasures quite. 
Till wisdom from above did him enlight." 

Mistress Wisdom. 



40 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

415. joins with Quality. Joins with people of rank. The 
term was used both in an abstract and a concrete sense: *a 
person of quality ' was a person of rank ; ' the quality ' were people 
of rank. So Addison in the Guardian^ quoted by Johnson: " I 
shall appear at the masquerade dressed up in my feathers, that 
the quality may see how pretty they will look." It is still 
occasionally used, but it is now a vulgarism. 

418. madrigal. A pure Italian word madrigale, pi. madrigali, 
explained by Florio as ' short songs or ditties,' generally of a 
pastoral kind, a shepherd's song, hence its derivation from 
mandriale, * a herdsman' or * drover.' 

419. hackney. Properly a horse let out for hire, so a 
mercenary drudge : hack is another form. 

425. singular, standing alone ; have something not common 
with others; so, almost, independent. 

428. Schismatics, properly splitters-off ; from o-x/feti', *to split,* 
so dissentients. The accent is on the antepenultimate. 

429. wit. See note on 1. 17. 

434. like towns unfortify'd. The sense is clear, but the 
grammatical construction is slipshod and confused. Towns un- 
fortified frequently change sides, but not as weak heads do, 
hovering between sense and nonsense. 

441. Sentences. The reference is to the Book of Sentences 
compiled by Peter Lombard, Bishop of Paris, in 1159, which 
was intended to be, and really became, the manual of the schools. 
Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on it. 

444. Scotists and Thomists. The Scotists were the followers 
of Duns Scotus, "the subtle doctor," who was born about 1260, 
became Professor of Theology at Oxford in 1301, and died in or 
about 1308. The Thomists were the followers of Thomas 
Aquinas, a Neapolitan, the " angelic doctor"; he was born about 
1227, became a scholar of Albert the Great; lectured at Cologne 
and Paris, and died in 1274. "The war of Scotists and 
Thomists long divided the schools," says Milman, "not the 
less fierce from the utter darkness in which it was enveloped." 
For an account of it see Milman 's Hist, of Latin Christianity, 
Vol. IX., ch. iii. 

445. Duck-lane. " A place, where old and second-hand books" 
were sold formerly, near Smithfield " (Pope's note) ; so Swift, 
Verses on his own death : 

*' Some country squire to Lintot goes. 
Inquires for Swift in verse and prose. 
Says Lintot, ' I have heard the name, 
He died a year ago' — 'The same.' 
He searches all the shop in vain : 
* Sir, you may find them in Duck-lane.' " 



II. NOTES. 41 

447. modes. Fashions. A man of mode was the common expres- 
sion for a man of fashion. Cf. the French mode, meaning the 
same thing, and probably the origin of the term. 

449. The current folly proves. The test of an author's repu- 
tation, or in other words, of what constitutes his reputation, 
i.e. his wit, is popularity, and as a large proportion of those 
whose opinions constitute popularity are fools, current folly is 
practically the test of the wit of the moment. The passage may 
be compared with the passage in Shakespeare's Troilus and 
Gressida, iii. iii. : 

" No man is the lord of any thing, 
Though in and of him there be much consisting, 
Till he communicate his parts to others ; 
Nor doth he of himself know them for aught 
Till he behold them formed in th' applause 
Where they are extended. " 
458-9. Pride, Malice, ... In various shapes. The * parsons' who 
attacked Dryden were the Rev. Jeremy Collier in his Short 
View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, 
and the Rev. Luke Milbourn in his Notes on DryderCs Virgil, 
1698. See Johnson's life of Dryden and also Scott's. The * beaus ' 
were probably George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who as 
one of the authors of the Rehearsal, 1671, held Dryden up to 
ridicule as Bayes. Also John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who 
attacked him in his Allusion to the Tenth Satii^e of Horace, and 
hired some bravos to waylay and cudgel him because of some 
verses in Sheffield's Essay on Satire, attributed to Dryden, in 
which Rochester had been satirized. Among the * critics ' may 
be numbered Thomas Shadwell, the subject of Dry den's 
Mac Flecknoe, who attacked Dryden in The Medal of John Bayes 
and Dryden's Satire to his Muse. Elkanah Settle, who had 
assailed him in his Absalom Senior, and Sir Richard Blackmore, 
who had spoken very severely of him in a Satire against Wit. 

463. Blackmores . . . Milbourns. Sir Richard Blackmore was 
physician to William III. and to Queen Anne, and was a volum- 
inous writer both in verse and prose. The works by which he 
was most known were The Creation, a didactic poem in seven 
books, which was highly praised both by Addison and by Dr. 
Johnson, an epic poem on King Alfred in twelve books, and a 
sacred poem called The Redeemer . He died in 1729, and his 
biography has been written by Dr. Johnson in the Lives of the 
Poets. Of Luke Milbourn little more is known than the fact 
that he was educated at Cambridge, held preferments in the 
church, and died in 1720. He was satirized by Dryden, and 
is one of the heroes of the Dunciad. Of his strictures on 
Dryden's Virgil Dr. Johnson has given a specimen which he 
might just as well have spared us. 



42 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

465. Zoilus. It is uncertain when Zoilus lived : he is said to 
have been a native of Amphipolis, and to have migrated to Alex- 
andria during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (born B.C. 309, 
died B.C. 247). But this is doubtful : he was famous for his 
attack on Homer, and was nicknamed 'OfjLTjpo/jLaa-ri^, * the scourge 
of Homer.' Dionysius of Halicarnassus speaks of him with 
respect, and classes him among critics of the highest rank. 

468. Wit. See note on line 17- 

479. Patriarch-wits. Referring to the long lives of the 
Patriarchs. 

483. sucli as Chaucer is, etc. True, in a very different sense 
to the sense intended by Pope, who meant, of course, that Dryden 
would come to be as obsolete as Chaucer. As a matter of fact 
Chaucer is n:^w more popular than Dryden. From the Eliza- 
bethan age downward, there seems to have been an impression 
that nothing written in English would last, and that was one of 
the reasons why it was usual to have important works translated 
into Latin. So Waller Of English Verse : 

" Poets that lasting marble seek 
Must carve in Latin or in Greek ; 
We write in sand : our language grows. 
And like the tide our work o'erflows. " 

484. So when the faithful pencil. "Nothing," says Warton, 
commenting on these lines, "was ever more happily expressed 
on the subject of painting, a subject of which Pope always speaks 
con amove. " Cf . Pope's Epistle to Jervas. Pope, like Euripides, 
was himself an amateur painter. Some of his paintings are extant 
— a head of Betterton painted by him was in Lord Mansfield's 
possession. In the beautiful passage in the text he has drawn on 
the equally beautiful lines which close Dryden's Epistle to Sir 
Godfrey Kneller : 

* ' More cannot be by mortal art exprest. 
But venerable age shall add the rest ; 
For Time shall with his ready pencil stand, 
Retouch your figures with his ripening hand, 
Mellow your colours and embrown the teint, 
Add every grace which time alone can grant ; 
To future ages shall your fame convey. 
And give more beauties than he takes away. " 

493. And all the bright. An echo of Addison {Account of the 
Greatest English Poets, 31) : 

* ' And all the pleasing landscape fades away. " 

495. Atones not for. Atones, a compound of at and one, 
properly means 'to set at one,' *to reconcile.' So to bring into 
-harmony or accord, and so ' to make reparation,' * to compensate.' 



Ti, NOTES. 43 

601. The owner's wife. That is, the wife of the owner of the 
wit. 

503. The more we give. The more we give, the more people 
expect from us. 

506, 607. The vicious fear it because they fear its scourge as 
satire ; the virtuous shun it because of its frequent abuse and 
perversion in the hands of its possessors ; fools hate it because 
they envy those who have it, or because they dread its lash. Why 
it is ' undone by knaves ' is well explained by Warburton : " The 
poet would insinuate a common but shameful truth, that men in 
power, if they got power by illiberal arts, generally left Wit and 
Science to starve." The couplet seems to be a parody of a 
couplet from the lines on Death in the Third Canto of Garth's 
Dispensarij, 230, 231 : 

'^ 'Tis what the guilty fear, the pious crave. 
Sought by the wretch, and vanquish'd by the brave, 

509. commence its foe. Begin to be its foe. French commence7\ 

511. endeavour'd well. This verb grew out of the Middle 
English phrase, ' to do his devoir ' or duty. So Chaucer, Knight'' s 
TcUe, 1600: "Doth now your devoir," 'Do your duty.' So Dr. 
Johnson, Preface to Dictionary : " I deliver it to the world with 
the spirit of a man that has endeavoured well.^'' 

514. Parnassus' . . . crown. See note on line 94. The repetition 
of the word is an instance of carelessness rare indeed with Pope. 

518, 519. That is, all the unsuccessful authors maligned the 
successful. The successful authors, as Elwin pertinently re- 
marks, never said anything so slanderous. 

521. sacred lust. That is, accursed ; an imitation of the 
Latin use of the word, suggested, as Pope notes, by Virgil, 
Aen. III. 56, 57. 

" Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, 
Auri sacra fames ? " 

522. Ah ne'er so dire. Again from Virgil, Georg. i. 37 : 

" Nee tibi regnandi veniat tam dira cupido." 

527. spleen (Greek airX-fiv). Properly a gland above the kidney, 
supposed by the ancients to be the seat of anger, ill-humour, and 
melancholy. 

528. provoking. In the Latin sense ' calling forth,' * challeng- 
ing' — pro and vocare, 'to call forth.' 

529. flagitious. From the hd^tin flagitiosus, 'shameful,' * in- 
famous.' 

530. No pardon. So Roscommon, Art of Translating Verse, in 
a couplet often erroneously attributed to Pope : 

" Immodest words admit of no defence. 
For want of decency is want of sense." 



44 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. ii. 

536. an easy Monarch's care. The reference is to Charles II. 
Sir Walter Scott once quoted, in conversation, a stanza, from one 
of the broadsheets of the time, attributed to Buckingham : 
" Here's Lauderdale the pretty, 
And Monmouth the witty, 
And Fraser the learned physician ; 
Here's the Duke for a jest, 
And, to crown all the rest, 
Here's Charles for a great politician " ; 
the point being the elaborate impropriety of the attributes 
assigned to each. 

538, 539. Jilts rul'd the state ... Lords had wit. The jilts were 
fche various mistresses of Charles ; the statesmen who wrote farces 
were George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, part author of the 
Behearsalj one of the Cabal; Sir George Etheridge, author of 
fche The Comical Revenge, She Would if she Could, and the Man 
of Mode, an ambassador and British plenipotentiary at Ratisbon. 
The wits who had pensions were certainly less numerous than 
the wits who had not ; perhaps the list does not extend further 
than St. Evremond. The young lords who had wit have been 
enumerated by Dennis: "Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; the 
Earl of Mulgrave ; Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset ; 
fche Marquis of Halifax ; the Earl of Rochester ; Lord Vaughan, 
and several others." 

541. Mask. Or masque, a word from the Arabic, properly 
denoting a covering for the face, and then by easy deduction a 
person who wore a mask, and an assembly or entertainment 
where such masks were worn. 

542. modest fan. As in Charles II. 's reign it became fashion- 
able for ladies to wear masks, a custom attributed by Cibber and 
Evelyn to the gross immorality and obscenity of the dramas, which 
no decent woman could witness or listen to with uncovered face, 
fans went out of use. 

543. at what they blush'd. * At that which they blushed at 
before ' : a most awkward ellipse. 

Between this verse and the following couplet Pope inserted two 
lines which were afterwards cancelled : 

'* Then first the Belgian morals were extoll'd. 
We their religion had, and they our gold." 

adding as his reason for omitting them, that they *' contained a 
national reflection, which in his stricter judgment he could not 
but disapprove, on any people whatever. " 

545. hold Socinus. Laelius Socinus was born at Sienna in 
1525, and died at Zurich in 1562, leaving to his more celebrated 
nephew, Faustus Socinus, born at Sienna, 1539, died near Cracow 



ill. NOTES. 45 

in 1604, the task of reducing to a system the tenets which they 
held. They were the leaders of the sect known as Unitarians, 
who were opposed to the Catholic Christians in rejecting the 
doctrine of the Trinity, in denying the divinity of Christ and all 
that immediately depended on belief in that divinity, the atone- 
ment, and the like : they rejected also the doctrine of original 
sin, of eternal punishment, and the existence of Satan. A common 
charge against the Latitudinarian school was that they were 
Socianians. 

546. unbelieving priests. The particular person glanced at 
here is supposed to be Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Sarum, who had 
been severely attacked by Dryden in the Third Part of the Hind 
and Panther, and who was the most prominent leader of the 
Latitudinarian school. Pope, as a Roman Catholic, would 
naturally not regard this school with much favour. 

547. And taught more pleasant. Jortin, in a note quoted by 
Elwin, says : *'In this line Pope had Kennet in view, who was 
accused of having said, in a funeral sermon on some nobleman, 
that converted sinners, if they were men of parts, repented more 
speedily and effectually than dull rascals": surely a very sensible 
remark. The Kennet referred to was Dr. White Kennet (1660- 
1728), Bishop of Peterborough. 

550. their sacred satire. Cf. the couplet in Moral Essays^ 
Epist. IV. 149, 150 : 

* ' To rest the cushion and soft Dean invite, 
Who never mentions Hell to ears polite," 
and Pope's note to this passage. "This is a fact: a reverend 
Dean, preaching at Court, threatened the sinner with punish- 
ment in ' a place which he thought it not decent to name in so 
polite an assembly. ' " 

551. Vice admir'd. Wondered — the Latin sense of the term, 
frequent in our old authors. So Milton, Par. Lost, ii. 277, 278 : 

'* Th' undaunted fiend, what this might be, admired, 
Admired, not feared." 
So again in Bk. i. 690, 691 : 

*' Let none admire 
That riches grow in hell." 
See too note on line 391. 

552. Wit's Titans. The Titans were the sons and daughters of 
Uranus and G^, and after attempting to scale Heaven and depose 
Zeus, they were overcome and hurled down to Tartarus. 

553. licens'd blasphemies. Pope may here be referring to 
the Deistical writers, Toland, Tindal, Collins, and others who 
were very prominent at the end of the seventeenth and during 



46 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. n 

the course of the eighteenth centuries. Cf. the reference in the 
Dunciad, ii. 399 : 

" Toland and Tindal prompt at priests to jeer, 
Yet silent bow'd to Christ^ s no kingdom here," 
a sarcastic allusion to Bishop Hoadley's famous Latitudinarian 
sermon. 

556. scandalously nice. Malignantly discriminating. 

557. mistake . . . into vice. Awkwardly expressed, but meaning : 

* misrepresent him for the sake of perverting his meaning into 
something vicious. ' 

559. all looks yellow. Wakciield appositely quotes Lucretius, 
IV. 333 : 

" Lurida praeterea fiunt, quaecunque tuentur 
Arquati. " 

* Again whatever the jaundiced gaze on becomes a greenish yellow. ' 
Jaundice is from the French jaunisse j yellowness from jau7ie, 

* yellow.' 



III. 

564, 565. That all may allow not simply what is due to your 
sense, but seek your friendship also. 

567. speak, tho' sure. Like the Greeks "qui amant omnia 
dubi tan tins loqui. " In the first edition Pope wrote : 

' Speak when you're sure, yet speak with diffidence,' 
and on Dennis suggesting that a man, when sure, should speak 
*'with a modest assurance," Pope wrote on the margin of his 
manuscript, "Dennis p. 21, Alter the inconsistency." Like 
Tillotson he profited from his enemies. 

571-7. The young student would do well to take these 
admirable lines to heart : if followed, they would prove a royal 
road to what most men arrive at by very circuitous and sometimes 
painful paths. 

577. That, i.e. good-breeding. 

585. Appius reddens . . . tapestry. The allusion is to Dennis. 
See note on line 270. But there is a nice propriety in the picture 
which might easily be missed. 'Reddens' refers to Dennis' 
sensitively irritable disposition. Pope calls him a " furious old 
critic." The stare was one of his characteristics. There is a 
passage quoted by Elwin from Sir Richard Steele in which Dennis 
is thus described, " He starts, stares, and looks round him at 
every jerk of his person forward." The word ' tremendous' has 
also particular point, for it was, it seems, Dennis' favourite word. 



in. NOTES. 47 

** If," said Gildon, "there is anything of tragedy in the piece 
(he is referring to Dennis' Iphigenia) it lies in the word tremen- 
dous, for he is so fond of it he had rather use it in every page 
than slay his beloved Iphigenia." In the unfortunate farce 
written in conjunction by Gay and Pope, the Three Hours after 
Marriage^ Dennis is introduced as one of the characters and 
named Sir Tremendous. 

588. tax. Censure. Tax is derived originally from the Latin 
tangere, supine tactum, ' to touch,' from whence comes taxare, * to 
handle,' then 'to reproach' or censure, and lastly 'to rate' or 
value. So in Shakespeare, As You Like It, ii. i., "You'll be 
whipp'd for taxation" — censure or slander. And in this sense 
* tax ' is used here. 

589. uncensur'd. See note on line 7. 

591. take Degrees. Formerly noblemen and the sons of noble- 
men were admitted to the degree of M.A. in our universities 
without any examination. 

592. 593. Satires, . . . Dedicators. It is astonishing that Pope 
could admit such rhymes as these, but see supra, 301, 302. 

593. fulsome, disgusting, properly cloying, satiating ; A. -S. for 
ful with the suffix -sum. 

596. censure. See note on 1. 7. 

599. rail. An echo, as Elwin points out, from Buckingham- 
shire's Essay on Satire: 

" For who can rail so long as he can sleep." 

603. Jades. Jade, a sorry nag. Skeat traces it to the 
Scandinavian yad or yaud, 

606-9 The allusion here is supposed to be to old Wycherley, 
who, when very advanced in years, went on scribbling bad poetry 
which Pope, then a mere boy, revised. See Macaulay's amusing 
account of this in his Essay on the Comic Dramatists of the 
Restoration. 

617. Dryden's Fables ... Durfey's Tales. Dryden's Fables con- 
sist of versions or rather paraphrases of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, 
Nun^s Priesfs Tale, Wife of Bath's Tale, Character of the Good 
Parson, and Flower and Leaf with versions of three stories 
from Boccaccio, and were published not long before his death in 
1700. Thomas Durfey, 1653-1723, was a voluminous wit and 
man of letters of the coarsest order. He was the author of some 
thirty-one dramatic pieces, and the compiler of six volumes of 
songs, catches, and the like, called Pills to Purge Melancholy. 
The 'Tales' to which Pope refers are Tales, Tragical and 
Comical (1704), and Tales, Moral and Comical (1706). Pope 
wrote a prologue designed to be spoken at a play acted for 
Durfey's benefit. 



48 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. iii. 

619. Garth... Dispensary. Sir Samuel Garth (1660-1719) was 
one of the most eminent physicians and wits of his time. Pope 
had a great liking and respect for him, and in the Prologue to the 
Satires (137) he numbers him among his friends, * well-natured 
Garth inflamed with early praise,' referring to the high opinion 
Dryden had of him, and in his verses on leaving London he 
says of him: 

*' The best good Christian he 
Although he knows it not," 

referring to Garth's notoriously free opinions on the subject of 
religion. Dr. Johnson has written his life. The Dispensary^ 
a mock heroic poem in six cantos, deals with a then famous 
feud between the College of Physicians and the Society of 
Apothecaries. The College passed a resolution to prescribe 
for the poor and give them medicine gratuitously, and this 
the apothecaries opposed. The poem was very famous at the 
time and for a long time afterwards, and it appears from Pope's 
note that some malignant people attempted to make out that 
Garth did not write it. It contains one beautiful passage on 
death, a line from which Cowper incorporated in his poem On 
the Receipt of his Mother^ s Picture : 

*' Where billows never break nor tempests roar." 

622. No place so sacred. Supply 'that' after 'sacred' and 
'it' after 'fops.' There are too many of these harsh ellipses 
in this poem. This stroke of satire is taken literally from 
Boileau, Art podti^ucy iv. 53-6 (Warton). 

623. Paul's churcli ... Paul's churchyard. Pope is referring 
rather to the reign of Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I., than 
to his own time. "Then," says Pennant, "the body of St. Paul's 
Cathedral was the common resort of the politician, the news- 
monger, and the idle in general. It was called Paul's Walk, and 
the frequenters of it were known as Paul's Walkers." References 
to this are common in the Elizabethan ^Titers. 

632. proud to know, means 'proud of knowing,' i.e. of his 
knowledge ; the construction is perfectly legitimate, and is very 
common in Shakespeare and our old writers. Possibly, however, 
the passage may mean, still pleased to teach and yet not (too) 
proud to be taught, to get knowledge ; like Chaucer's clerk, 
" Gladly would he learn and gladly teach." 

633. Unhlass'd. See note on 1. 203. 

636. humanly severe. "Human and humane are sometimes 
confounded, though the only authorized sense of the former is 
belonging to man; of the latter, kind and compassionate. 
Humanly is improperly put for humanely in these lines of Pope." 
Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, Bk. ii. , ch. iii. 



ni. NOTES. 49 

642. love to praise. What is meant is a love of bestowing 
praise : it is the same in construction as the similar idiom in 1. 
632, though harsher. 

645. Stagirite. See note on 1. 138. 
"* 648. Maeonian Star. Homer. So Horace speaks (Odes, i. vi. 2) 
of a Maeonium carmen^ a * Maeonian strain.* Maeonia was an 
ancient name of Lydia, and Smyrna in Lydia was one of the seven 
cities which claimed the honour of being Homer's birth-place. 

653. Who conquer'd Nature. He is assumed to have ' con- 
quer 'd nature' by virtue of being the author of his Physics. 
He presides over wit, in a far more accurate sense, in his 
Rhetoric and Poetics. For 'wit' see note on 1. 17. 

653-60. This is no bad description, roughly speaking, of the 
style and method of Horace in his Epistles and Ars Poetica. 

662. judge ... phlegm. Phlegm is derived from the Greek 
(pXey/xa, 'flame.' *' Phlegm among the ancients signified a cold, 
viscous humour, contrary to the etymology of the word ; but 
amongst them there were two sorts of phlegm, cold and hot. 
The use of the word was due to the supposed influence of the 
four humours, which were : blood, choler, phlegm, and gall, phlegm 
causing a dull and sluggish temperament" (Skeat, quoting 
partly from Arbuthnot on Ailments), The line is borrowed from 
Roscommon's essay on translated verse : 

"And write with fury, but correct with phlegm." 

663, 664. Nor suffers ... quotations. How a writer like Pope 
could allow this couplet to stand is simply inexplicable, it is bad 
alike in structure, rhythm, and tone. The meaning is the very 
opposite to what seems to be expressed. What he says is that 
Horace did not suff'er more by wrong translations than critics 
suffer by wrong quotations. What he plainly means to say is, 
Horace does not suffer more by the wrong translations of wits, 
than he does by the misquotations of critics. 

665. Dionysius. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, born between 
B.C. 78 and 54, died B.C. 7. He was a voluminous historian and 
a voluminous critic. The chief critical writings which have come 
down to us are some excellent critiques of some of the most 
eminent Greek orators, and a Treatise on Composition. Pope's 
eulogy of him is somewhat exaggerated, and indeed not quite 
intelligible, for in none of his extant works does Dionysius 
*' refine Homer's thoughts," or " call forth new beauties." 

667. Petronius. Petronius, surnamed Arbiter, died a.d. 66 
by his own hand, is described by Tacitus [Annals, xvi. 18, 19) as 
the most elegant and accomplished voluptuary at the court of 
Nero. He was the author of a brilliant but shamefully immoral 
romance called the Satyricon, and it is both amazing and ridicu- 
lous in Pope to give him a place beside Quintilian and Longinus. 



50 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. in. 

His title to a place among critics begins and ends with a few 
occasional remarks, towards the commencement and in the four- 
teenth chapter of his romance, on oratory and poetry. 

669. grave Quintilian. Marcus JFabius Quintilianus, born about 
A.D. 40, died about a.d. 118, is the most illustrious of the Roman 
critics. His great work, De Institutione Oratorid, or as it is 
sometimes called, Institutiones Oratorice, is in twelve books and 
is an elaborate treatise on the complete education of an orator. 
The tenth book contains a critical account of the principal Greek 
and Roman writers, dope's account of the work is as correct as 
it is terse, 

675. Thee, bold Longinus. Dionysius Cassius Longinus was 
born about 213, probably at Athens, but travelling to Palmyra 
became acquainted with Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, who made 
him her teacher and afterwards her confidential adviser. In 
A.D. 273, when Aurelian took Palmyra, Longinus was put to 
death for having incited her to rebel against the Romans. 
Till 1809, when Weiske published his edition of the Treatise on 
the Sublime, it was universally ascribed to Longinus. But 
Weiske first showed that there are very weighty (but by no 
means conclusive) reasons for supposing that Longinus was not 
the author. The question is still sub judice, and there in all 
likelihood it will for ever remain. In any case this Treatise is 
the most precious contribution to criticism that has perhaps ever 
been made. Its influence on criticism in every country in 
Europe has been enormous ; it has been a text-book with most of 
our best critics, and the only places where it has been neglected 
are, as might be supposed, the English universities. Pope's apo- 
strophe to Longinus is as noble and eloquent as it is strictly just. 

680. Sublime he draws. Suggested by Boileau's preface to 
his translation of Longinus: " Souvent il fait la figure, qu'il 
enseigne ; et en parlant du sublime il est lui-m^me tres sublime." 

684. Arts still foUow'd. Education followed the footsteps of 
the Romans wherever they settled. 

685. same foes. The barbarians. Rome was sacked in a.d. 
410 by Alaric. 

686. Rome. Pronounced in and before Pope's time Boom. 
Cf. the play on the word in Shakespeare's King John, iii. i. : 
'* That I have room with Rome to curse awhile." Landor always 
pronounced it so. 

691. a second deluge. The sons of the Church— Popes and the 
Catholic priesthood generally. The whole history of Europe, 
from the Pontificate of Gregory I. to the Renaissance, justifies 
and illustrates Pope's epigram, that the monks finished what the 
Goths began. 



III. NOTES. 51 

693. Erasmus. No single man contributed more to the dis- 
semination of learning, culture, and intellectual enlightenment 
than Desiderius Erasmus (born at Kotterdam in 1467, died at 
Bale in 1536), whether we regard his services to theology or 
to humanity. 

696. drove ... off the stage. He covered the monks with 
ridicule and contempt, and gave the death-blow to their effete 
and tottering system in his Encomium Moriae, his Adagia^ and 
his Colloqida. 

697. Leo's golden days. The Pontificate of Leo X., from 
1513-1521, may be taken as the acme of the Renaissance. 

704. Raphael. Raphael, born 1483, died 1520, settled at Rome 
in 1508. 

705. Immortal Vida. Marco Girolamo Vida, whom Pope 
exalts to this eminence, was born at Cremona about 1490. 
Entering the Church he became Apostolical Secretary to Clement 
VII., and in 1532 was made Bishop of Alba. He died at Alba, 
Sept. 27th, 1566. His works, all of which are in Latin, consist 
of odes, modelled on Horace's, an epic poem in six books, 
called the Christiad (1535), a poem on the life of Christ, eclogues, 
modelled on VirgU's, a poem, in two books, on the growth of silk- 
worms, Bomhyces (1537), modelled on the Georgics, an Art of 
Poetry {Poetica, 1527), in three books ; and a mock heroic poem 
on the game of chess, Scaccia, Ludus, a marvellous tour deforce. 
Vida is certainly one of the most ingenious and accomplished 
Latin poets of the Renaissance, and was the most popular, which 
is possibly to be accounted for by the subjects which he treated, 
for as a Latin poet he had many rivals and perhaps superiors 
among his contemporaries. Pope has modelled his game of 
ombre in the Bape of the Lock on the Scaccia. 

709. from Latium chas'd. An allusion to the sack of Rome 
by the Constable Bourbon in 1527, an event which marks, at all 
events, approximately, the conclusion of the golden age of the 
Renaissance in Italy. 

714. Boileau. Boileau-Despr^aux, born November 1st, 1636, 
died March 13th, 1711, is happily chosen by Pope as representing 
the Golden Age of the Grand Monarch, as he stands in the same 
relation to the French literature of that era as Dryden and Pope 
stand to our own — " the great dictator of the realms of rhyme." 
His worst works are his Odes, his best the Lutrin, his Satires 
and Epistles f and his L^Art poetique. The parallel with Horace 
cannot be extended to his lyrics. Boileau has himself indicated 
his relation to Horace in the last part of his* Art poMique : 
** Pour moi, qui, jusqu'ici nourri dans la satire, • 
N'ose encore manier la trompette et la lyre, 



52 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. iii. 

Vous me verrez pourtant, dans ce champ glorieux, 
Vous animer du moins de la voix et des yeux ) 
Vous offrir ces le9ons que ma muse au Parnasse 
Rapporta, jeune encore, du commerce d'Horace." 

723. Such was the Muse. That Pope should, in coming to 
England, have passed over Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and 
Dryden, and selected "such small deer" as Sheffield, Ros- 
common, and Walsh, is partly to be ascribed to his desire to 
confine himself to criticism ; but the omission of Dryden is 
extraordinary. The muse who proclaimed that Nature's chief 
masterpiece is writing well was the muse of John Sheffield, Earl 
of Mulgrave, and subsequently Duke of Buckinghamshire : the 
line is from his Essay on Poetry. When Warton said that 
"Sheffield's reputation was owing to his rank," and De Quincey 
that '* Pope must have been well aware that, among all the 
poetic triflers of the day there was not one more ripe for the 
Dunciad,^^ they said what probably most people who have waded 
through his Grace's poetical works would corroborate. They are 
literally "so middling, bad were better." The only good thing 
which Sheffield has left is his epitaph, which is singularly pathetic 
and powerful : 

" Dubius, sed non improbus, vixi, 

Incertus morior, sed inturbatus. 

Humanum est nescire et errare. 

Christum adveneror, Deo confido 

Omnipotenti, benevolentissimo. 
Ens Entium, miserere mei. " 
Sheffield was born in 1649, and was the son of Edmund, Earl of 
Mulgrave. He served in the navy in the second Dutch War, 
and was one of the few honest courtiers in the service of 
James II. He filled various important posts ; was created in 
1703 Duke of Normanby and Duke of Buckinghamshire : he 
died in Feb. 1720, and has left some memoirs and prose essays 
which are far more interesting than his poetry. 

725. Boscommon. Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, 
was bom in or about 1633, and was the son of a sister of 
Straffi)rd. At the Restoration he came to England, and amused 
himself with various literary projects, among others with founding 
an English Academy. He died in 1684. His poems consist of 
An Essay on Translated Verse, some short miscellaneous poems, 
among them a spirited version of the Dies Irae, and a translation 
into blank verse of Horace's Ars Poetica. He is a respectable 
mediocrity, respectable in a double sense, as Pope's couplet 
indicates : 

" In all Charles' days 

Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays." 
Imit. of First Epist, of First Booh of Horaces Epistles, 



m. NOTES. 53 

729. Walsh. William Walsh was born about 1663, was educated 
at Oxford, came up to London and became distinguished as a man 
of fashion and a wit. Dryden, who was very friendly with him, 
called him "the best critic in the nation." In or about 1703 he 
made the acquaintance of Pope, and advised him to aim at 
'correctness.* He died in 1708. His poems, which are perfectly 
mediocre, consist of elegies, epitaphs, odes, and songs, among 
which is to be found what was a rare phenomenon in the poetry 
of that day — a sonnet. In the Prologue to the Satires, Pope 
numbers him among his early friends : 

** And knowing Walsh would tell me I could write." 
Pope's tribute to him here is singularly touching, as it was so 
' perfectly disinterested. 

736. pruned. The word applied to birds means 'to remove 
superfluous feathers,' 'to trim their wings'; a variation of the 
word is ' preen.' ' Tender ' in the Latin sense of ' young.' 

739, 740. It is remarkable that a well-known quotation often 
attributed to Horace, "Indocti discant et anient meminisse 
periti," is a translation of this couplet. It was made by the 
President Henault, who inserted it as the epigraph to his Ahr4g4 
chronologique, not indicating its source. For some time it was 
attributed to Horace, to the great amusement of Henault, who, 
however, in the third edition of his work, confessed the hoax. 
(See Edouard Fournier's L' Esprit des Autres.) 



INDEX TO THE NOTES. 



The first figure denotes the line in 'the poem, the second the page on 
which the note will be found. 



A 

Admire, 391. 39. 
Ajax, 370. 38. 
Alexandrine, 356. 37. 
Amnion's son, 376. 38. 
Apollo, 34. 26. 
Appius, 585. 46. 
Approve, 391. 39. 
Atones, 495. 42. 

B 

Bavins, 34. 26. 
Bias, 203. 31. 
Bills, 109. 28. 
Blackmore, 463. 41. 
Boileau, 714. 51. 
Brave, 152. 29. 
Buckinghamshire, 723. 52. 



Camilla, 372. 38. 
Cavil, 123. 29. 
Censure, 6. 23. 
Chaucer, 483. 42. 
Chaos, 292. 35. 
Commence, 509. 43. 
Conceit, 289. 35 ; 320. 36. 
Consenting, 186. 30. 



54 



Coxcomb, 27. 25. 
Criticism, 15. 23. 
Critics, II. 23. 
Current folly, 499. 41. 

D 

Decent, 319. 36. 

Deistical writers, 553. 45 ; 270. 

34. 
Denham, 361. 37. 
Dennis, 36. 26. 
Dionysius, 665. 49. 
Dillon, 723. 52. 
Doublets, 332. 36. 
Dryden, 384. 38 ; 617. 47. 
Duck -lane, 445. 40. 
Durfey, 617. 47. 

E 

Endeavour, 511. 43. 
Enlights, 403. 39. 
Equivocal, 43. 26. 
Erasmus, 693. 51. 
Expletives, 346. 37. 

F 

Fable, 120. 29. 
Fantastic, 334. 37. 



INDEX TO THE NOTES. 



55 



Flagitious, 529. 43. 
Fulsome, 593. 47. 
Fungoso, 328. 36. 

a 

Garth, 619. 48. 
Genius, 11. 23. 

H 

Hacknev, 419. 40. 
Henault, 739. 63. 
Hippocrates, 61. 27. 
Humanly, 637. 48. 



Inform, 76. 27. 



Jades, 603. 47. 
Jilts, 538. 44. 

K 

Kennet (Dr. White), 547. 45. 



La Mancha's Knight, 267. 33. 
Leo X., 697. 51. 
Lists, 278- 35. 
Longinus, 675. 50. 

M 

Madrigal, 418. 40. 
Mseonian Star, 648. 49. 
Msevius, 34. 26. 
Mantuan Muse, 129. 29. 
Mask, 541. 44. 
Maze, 26. 25. 
Meant, 83. 27. 
Memory, 52. 27. 
Mettle, 87. 28. 
Milbourn, 463. 41. 
Modes, 447. 41. 
Must, 194. 31. 



N 

Nature, 68. 27. 
Nice, 273. 34. 



Paeans, 187. 30. 
Parnassus, 94. 28. 
Paul's Church, 623. 43. 
Peculiar, 62. 27. 
Pegasus, 85, 28. 
Petronius, 667. 49. 
Phalaris controversy, 394. 39, 
Phlegm, 662. 49. 
Pierian spring, 216. 31. 
'Pothecaries, 108. 28. 
Pride, 204. 31. 
Prismatic glass, 311. 36. 
Provoke, 528. 43. 
Prune, 7s^, 53. 

Q 

Quality, 415, 40. 
Quintilian, 669. 50. 

R 

Raphael, 704. 51. 
Remorse, 167. 30. 
Rome, 686. 50. 
Roscommon, 723. 52. 

S 

Sacred, 521. 43. 
Sacrilegious, 182. 30. 
Schismatics, 428. 40. 
Scotists, 444. 40. 
Sense, 4.' 22. 
Sentences, 441. 40. 
Sheffield, 723. 52. 
Similes, 225. 32. 
Singular, 425. 40. 
Sots, 271. 34. 
Socinus, 545. 44. 
Spark, 329. 36. 
Spleen, 527. 43. 



56 



INDEX TO THE NOTES. 



Stagirite, 138. 29. 
Still, 32. 25. 
Sublimes, 400. 39. 



Tax, 588. 47. 
Tell, 44. 26. 
Thomists, 444. 40. 
Titan's, 552. 45. 
Timotheus, 374. 38. 
Triplet, 25. 25. 
Trivial, 258. 33. 

U 

Unities, 276. 34. 



Verbal, 261. 33. 
Vida, 705. 51. 

W 

Waller, 361. 37. 
Walsh, 729. 53. 
Wit, 17. 24; 297. 35. 
Witling, 40. 26. 
Wycherley, 606. 47. 



Zoilus, 465. 42. 



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